DGXI opens EU chemicals policy review talks

Industry, NGO, government, experts to call for radical changes to risk assessment process

European experts on chemicals and the environment are to meet in Brussels tomorrow to kick off a review of EU chemicals policy. The European Commission's environment directorate (DGXI) has invited representatives from EU member states, industry and NGOs to discuss experience with two EU laws controlling the classification, labelling and risk assessment of new and existing chemicals.

The policy review is the Commission's response to a request made by EU environment ministers this spring (ENDS Daily 27 April). Tomorrow's discussion will mark the start of an opinion canvassing exercise by the Commission, which will make a first progress report to ministers in December.

Tomorrow's "stakeholder" meeting replaces a scheduled meeting of member state representatives. This was due to approve risk assessment recommendations on the first four "high priority" substances to be reviewed under the five-year old "existing substances" regulation, but had to be delayed (ENDS Daily 8 September). The lack of results from the regulation is bound to be the main topic of discussion tomorrow.

DGXI has left the agenda open for a general debate, but has also pencilled in a discussion of reports from two meetings on the subject held under the Dutch EU presidency last year and the UK's recently announced consultation paper on chemicals in the environment (ENDS Daily 27 July).

ENDS Daily understands that there will be calls for radical changes to existing EU policies from all sides. The Dutch government, for example, has written to the Commission saying that the review of the risk assessment regulations should be expanded to become an overhaul of all EU policies on chemicals. According to the Dutch, risk assessment data should be built up to provide a coherent body of information on which all the other policies can be based.

Environmental group WWF will tell DGXI that there should be a deadline set at 2004 after which all existing chemicals which lack adequate risk data should be treated as new substances. This would effectively remove them from the market until they could undergo a new approvals process.

Industry will outline its plans to take on more of the responsibility for chemicals risk assessment. ENDS Daily understands that the European chemicals industry association Cefic will be ready to present proposals on the matter by the end of this month following pressure from its UK and German members (ENDS Daily 17 August).

Follow Up:
European Commission, tel: +32 2 295 1111.

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