EU firms pledge openness on chemicals review

Cefic says ready to speed up risk assessments, improve access to data under revised chemicals policy

European chemical firms yesterday responded to environmentalist demands for tough new EU action to reduce chemical risks, pledging to negotiate with stakeholders but rejecting calls for a wholesale restructuring of regulation. Cefic director general Alain Perroy briefed journalists after European environmental groups issued their "Copenhagen charter" on EU chemicals policy (ENDS Daily 30 October). Both sides are jockeying for position as the European Commission prepares to issue a white paper on chemicals next month.

Mr Perroy said that the chemicals industry would continue to resist those environmentalist demands that it considered impractical or anti-competitive, but stressed that its position was not "conservative or immobile".

He said that the chemical industry was open to negotiation over how many "existing substances" should undergo risk assessment, how quickly they should be assessed and what type of data should be required for each substance's assessment to be considered complete. He also agreed that a lack of public access to chemical data had become a key public concern.

But Mr Perroy made it clear that other demands of environmental groups would continue to be resisted. Regulation of chemicals based on hazard rather than risk was not acceptable, he said. Automatic bans on continued marketing of existing chemicals if risk assessments were not completed by a set date would also be opposed. Nor would the industry support a requirement for risk assessments to be carried out by independent third parties, Mr Perroy added. "Industry should be responsible," he said.

Cefic's chief went on to challenge the view that virtually nothing is known of the health or environmental risks of the 100,000 existing chemicals licensed for the market in the EU before 1981. "Some people say that there is a major data gap or that there is no knowledge about existing substances," said Mr Perroy. "On the contrary, the European chemicals industry has a lot of experience and information on the substances we market."

The Commission has been working on proposals for a revised EU chemicals policy since 1998 (ENDS Daily 26 February 1999), when the current member state rapporteur system of assessing existing substances was acknowledged as inadequate (ENDS Daily 17 September 1998).

Follow Up:
Cefic, tel: +32 2 676 72 11. See also Cefic's March 2000 position paper.

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