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- Sustainable development for a safer world
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Article related to: People and perspectives
Sustainable development for a safer world
Healthy chemicals management calls for information about the properties, hazards, exposure and uses of chemicals. Increasing this knowledge and being able to make informed decisions about chemical production and safe use are one of the ways of meeting the goals set for 2020 by the World Summit on Sustainable development (WSSD).
Since 2011, ECHA has been publishing information from over 50 000 registration dossiers and up to 120 000 substances on its website. A more user-friendly version of this database was just launched at the end of January.
"A lot of information on chemicals has already been made available. There are still important gaps to be filled, but this vast chemicals database will provide benefits also beyond the EU", says Ninja Reineke, Senior Policy Officer at a UK charity CHEM Trust.
Erwin Annys, Director at the European Chemical Industry Council (Cefic), adds that more information is still needed. "The REACH 2018 registration deadline is not the end - the process will continue and companies will look at how they can improve the quality of their dossiers where it is needed and how to come to a safer environment in general."
On the road to 2020, Europe is also facing new challenges. In December 2015, the European Commission launched its initiative on the circular economy. "This will create a new kind of thinking of how we should engage with our businesses and what will be the influence on classical business models", says Dr Annys.
Studies have shown that the chemicals sector – and especially small and medium-sized companies (SMEs) is very important for jobs and growth in Europe, but that the strict regulations bite the hardest on the smallest players.
Dr Reineke believes that protective regulations can trigger innovation. "What is bad for human health and the environment cannot be good for the economy in the long run. All the costs, for example, on health care or environmental remedy costs, are huge burdens on economies", she says.
Consumers who buy products should be sure that they are safe – without being chemical experts. However, products on the shelves are not always up to standards.
Dr Annys says that products made in Europe are a safer bet for consumers.
"Whenever I have a choice, I choose products which are made in Europe. As European citizens we also have the responsibility to support European industry."
Director-General Calleja Crespo trusts companies and the regulatory framework to protect European citizens. "We have a first class chemical industry in Europe, and at the same time, first class regulation to make sure that the substances on the market are safe", he concludes.
| Director-General Calleja Crespo. |
| Dr Erwin Annys. |
| Dr Ninja Reineke. |
Video interviews with Director-General Calleja Crespo, Dr Erwin Annys and Dr Ninja Reineke - done at the WSSD 2020 workshop in February 2016.
World Summit on Sustainable Development (WSSD)
In 2002, the international community made a commitment to the sound management of chemicals at the Johannesburg World Summit of Sustainable Development (WSSD). The aim is "to achieve, by 2020, that chemicals are used and produced in ways that lead to the minimisation of significant adverse effects on human health and the environment."
Since 2002, the European Union has made considerable progress in implementing legislation such as REACH and CLP to address that goal.
From 27 to 28 January, ECHA held a workshop in Helsinki to investigate how the current REACH and CLP processes can still be improved to increase their overall contribution to the WSSD 2020 goals. The presentations and recommendations from the workshop will soon be available on ECHA's website.
Text by Hanna-Kaisa Torkkeli
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Committee for Risk Assessment:
4-7 and 12-13 June
9-13 and 16-20 September (tentative)
Committee for Socio-Economic
9-13 and 16-20 September
Management Board meeting:
Member State Committee:
24-28 June (tentative)
Biocidal Products Committee: