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Updated chemicals database makes it easier to find what you need
Have you noticed the recent improvements made to ECHA’s chemicals database? More information is now available on properties of concern as well as on nanoform substances. The clearer structure and strengthened linking in the substance Infocard makes it easier to find exactly the information you are looking for. Read more about the enhancements and find out what you can expect to see in future releases.
Whether you want to know how a certain substance is used, how it is classified or if it has any properties of concern, you can find all this information in ECHA’s chemicals database. Around 24 000 users visit the database every day which means that it is important to keep improving it. Eoin Brennan, Scientific Officer in ECHA’s Data Availability Unit, runs us through the major improvements published in July 2019.
Improved substance Infocards
The substance Infocard, which is the first layer of information, has been restructured. The section showing the relevant regulations and regulatory activities is organised by legislation and now includes a simple explanation for each regulatory list to which a substance belongs to. The aim is to make it easier to understand and for you to focus on the relevant information.
The substance names and other identifiers part has gone through a major revamp. Where available, translated names for the substances are now included under this section. “At the moment, translated names are available for approximately 6 000 substances in 22 EU languages,” Mr Brennan explains.
The properties of concern section has been extended and enhanced to show explicitly where the data comes from. In addition, if a substance is considered an endocrine disruptor in the EU, or it is under assessment, there will be a small icon indicating this.
Clearer links and more help texts
If you are unsure what something means, look for small question mark icons in the substance Infocard. These show you that there is integrated help text available. The texts have been extensively expanded for this release.
Links to more detailed information than what is available in the Infocard have been made more prominent. You can find links to Brief Profiles, REACH registered substance factsheets, C&L Inventory, Biocidal active substance factsheets and PACT tool under Key datasets, directly under the substance summary.
“Since the target audience for the database is very broad, we wanted to strengthen the linking to allow users to find further details by navigating as deeply as they want,” Mr Brennan clarifies.
|Eoin Brennan. |
|"We want to make sure that all the efforts that industry has made to put together the data will be beneficial – that is one of the purposes of REACH."|
Making information more coherent
Information in the database is now shown in a more coherent way. For example, if only one company has classified the substance in a different way from all other companies, this won’t affect the result displayed in the Infocard.
“All data is disseminated and made publicly available. But only the most relevant and consistent data is shown in the Infocard. You can still find every notification when you navigate deeper in the database. We simply try to give importance to the data that is relevant, without removing anything,” Mr Brennan says.
The Infocard contains a new section called nanomaterial form. It shows if a substance is placed on the EEA market in nanoform. This information comes from REACH registrations, the Belgian and French national nanomaterial inventories and the cosmetic ingredients notification portal. The help icon provides direct links to these inventories and also to the EU Observatory for Nanomaterials (EUON) that has information on over 300 nanomaterials on the EU market.
“We aim to gather as much data as possible in one place. So, you don’t need to go to several different websites or databases to look for information. Instead, you can find it all through ECHA’s chemicals database,” Mr Brennan tells.
All public identifiers are included in the search, as well as translated names where available. You can also search for substances with certain properties of concern, for example, endocrine disruptors, or narrow down your search to substances available on the EEA market in nanomaterial form or to one of the available nanomaterial inventories.
“Although this is not a new functionality, you can save your searches if you are logged into ECHA’s website. This is particularly useful if you regularly carry out complex searches to follow developments or if new information is available. The latest release has increased the amount of search options and if you want to take full advantage of them, it might be good to be able to save them for later use,” Mr Brennan points out.
When looking at your search results, it is important to keep in mind that the data is retrieved from individual registration dossiers as submitted by industry and, therefore, might sometimes include some inconsistencies.
The wishlist for future developments and new features contains many useful functionalities. “We know that some regulatory lists are not yet integrated into our database and we plan, for example, to gradually integrate public consultations from spring 2020,” Mr Brennan says.
Many users have asked to get email alerts when a substance is put to a new regulatory process or list, typically the Candidate List, because it places legal obligations on companies. “The plan is, in the future, for people to not always need to go proactively to our website to check this information but to be able to receive alerts. So this will happen, but not yet this year,” Mr Brennan explains.
Another way to improve the database would be to offer more options for exporting data. “We don’t have a unified policy on how users can export different data. Some lists are free to be exported, but others, like the C&L Inventory or REACH registration fact sheets, can’t be exported at all. So within appropriate legal limits, introducing this would bring value for our users and would allow the data to be further used, for example, to improve substance safety data sheets or produce better modelling,” he states.
“We want to make data available in a broader sense but to do that, we need to know who will use the data and keep in mind that the data is in fact not ECHA’s. So, we must respect intellectual property rights and remember that some information has been claimed confidential. We want to make sure that all the efforts that industry has made to put together the data will be beneficial – that is one of the purposes of REACH,” Mr Brennan concludes.
If you want to give feedback on ECHA’s chemicals database, use the ‘See a problem or have feedback’ button on the top of the Infocard page.
What can you find in the chemicals database?
The chemicals database builds on different layers: Infocards give the high level information, Brief Profiles summarise the non-confidential data from ECHA’s databases and the REACH registered substance factsheets pull together the full information retrieved from registration dossiers.
All disseminated REACH data is now automatically linked to the OECD’s eChemPortal, and is the EU’s contribution to support this global portal that provides free public access to information on properties of chemicals.
Interview by Päivi Jokiniemi
Published on: 12 September 2019
Top image: © Pixabay/mohamed hassan
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9-13 and 16-20 September
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