- Another successful Stakeholders' Day
- Sixth Stakeholders' Day: Start preparing registrations for 2013 now!
- Still a long way to go for downstream users
- ECHA reports to the Commission on the operation of the RE ACH and CLP Regulations and on non-animal testing
- QSAR Toolbox - increasing confidence in computational assessment
- ECHA Unit for Guidance and Forum Secretariat: Supporting the Forum activities
- Risk Management Interview - Part 2: Authorisation and restriction start to work
- Mr Dan Jørgensen, Vice-Chair of the Environment Committee: Happy with progress but some reason for criticism
- Dr Marion Healy: Non-animal testing methods and the assessment of nanomaterials are examples of special areas of interest
- Mr Benedikt Vogt, Enforcer in Freiburg, Germany: Overall situation is positive
- REACH at Helsinki Chemicals Forum
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Article related to: people_and_perspectives
Mr Dan Jørgensen, Vice-Chair of the Environment Committee: Happy with progress but some reason for criticism
On 19 May, Mr Dan Jørgensen, Vice-Chair of the Environment Committee in the European Parliament, visited ECHA. He also participated in the Helsinki Chemicals Forum panel discussion on a review of RE ACH. In ECHA, Mr Jørgensen discussed the management topics related to RE ACH implementation and the future Biocides Regulation.
Mr Jørgensen, what are your impressions of the new chemicals regulations in the EU?
It is very useful for me to get information from ECHA but also from industry. Obviously, I continuously get information also in Brussels, but it was extremely useful for me to come here and take part in a panel discussion, to talk to industry that are influenced by the legislation and to meet the relevant people in ECHA.
How did you feel about the international discussion on REACH at the Helsinki Chemicals Forum?
It is very nice to see something that you have spent several years of your life working on now actually being implemented. Obviously problems arose that were not expected, but some things are also going better than I had hoped for.
How does the new EU chemicals legislation function in your opinion? You expressed some criticism at the Helsinki Chemicals Forum. What kind of changes would you like to see?
All in all, I am happy with the progress that has been made, especially with the functioning of ECHA. It is very impressive that it has been built up to work in such an efficient way in so short a time. But there are also some things that I am criticising and which we may need to remedy in the legislation.
The first is: Should we have more data requirements, especially for low tonnage substances? The requirements for low and high tonnage are not the same. This question was one of the big fights when REACH was made. My political group wanted more data requirements for low tonnage substances, but we lost the fight. It is my political opinion that we should revise the requirements, and there might also be reason for changing the legislation. One of the reasons for the Parliament to adopt the current data requirements was that industry told us that if we made the legislation more ambitious, they would have to move their production outside of the EU. They said the same also about other things we were doing, but when we actually did them, it was not a problem at all. Now I am thinking that maybe we should revise also some other decisions we made under assumptions based on advice from industry. Whether or not that is politically feasible is a totally different matter. But let us see.
My second point of criticism is: When you look at compliance checks made by ECHA, a very large percentage of the data we get from industry are not adequate. So we need to do something about that.
Thirdly, I fear we have too few substances on the Candidate List for substitution. The numbers are much lower than we had expected. This can mean that there are fewer substances that should be on the list - or possibly the system is not working well enough. This is something we need to look into.
And fourthly the problem with animal testing: It is extremely important that we find a way of setting into force the legislation on alternatives to animal testing. I know that some alternative methods have already been validated but are still not put in use. And every month that goes by, thousands of animals are suffering. That is not necessary, and industry is wasting a lot of money doing tests that they do not have to. And this is really a problem for everybody.
Actually, for the last two points, we do not need to change the legislation to remedy them. They are already in the legislation. We just need to find a way of putting pressure on the right institutions and the right people.
And on the positive side?
On the other hand, as I said, other things are going well. We should be happy that we have a well-functioning ECHA. Industry have taken on board their responsibility. I still think they should play a more progressive and ambitious role, but compared to before we made the legislation, it is a completely different world. At that time, industry said: "We cannot do this; we will not do this; we will move our production." Now, they are working with the institutions and the Member States and all the actors to implement the legislation. That is my general impression.
You are especially interested in the biocides. What is happening in this field right now?
We are making a new legislation on biocides in order to bring the old-fashioned one up-to-date. We wish to have a more restrictive assessment criteria, for instance, to get rid of the most dangerous substances that are used in biocides – if there are alternatives. We also want to make it easier for industry to have an approval of a new substance. That will probably mean also more work for ECHA.
What is the view of the European Parliament on how the authorisation of biocides will be managed?
It is divided right now. Some people are in favour of a European authorisation which would then mean a lot of work for ECHA. Others argue that there should be a choice between a national and a European one. A compromise could be that we will only get to the final stage of the European authorisation procedure but will take a stepwise approach, so that in the start, some substances are being approved on national stage, others at a European level, but in the end, there will only be a European authorisation.
How about the resources for the new tasks?
If you give an institution a new job, then they should also have the resources. The way ECHA is financed now with subsidies and fees also sets some challenges, because a fee cannot just be used for a different purpose. The fees that you get from REACH cannot be used for staff doing work on biocides, so you need to look for alternatives. That is either fees on biocides or EU subsidies - there are different possibilities – or even the possibility of a mixture of them. I personally like the principle of "the polluter pays" and think that it is a good thing if the industry carries the majority of the financial burden. But that needs to be discussed. The new regulation will make it easier for industry to put new products on the market quickly, and that will lead to more economic growth. So it should not be looked at only as a cost. It is actually something that could create added value. That is at least how I see it.
Also, whether we talk about REACH or biocides or pesticides, the focus of the chemicals legislation in the EU is progressively heading in the direction of protecting the environment and human health – where previously it has been about making chemicals, to make products and to make money. You can have a lot of positive effects that are actually also worth money. I do not know whether we should put monetary value on human life, but if you do, obviously a society is wealthier if people do not get cancer or become sterile. REACH will definitely help to solve a lot of health problems. This is not something that you can measure in the next year or in five years, but for future generations, REACH will probably have very positive effects.
It seems that there is a similar development in different parts of the world.
Well, there is a lot of interest but the reason is that they are forced to do it. I see this as an example of the EU´s soft power. It is not hard power; we do not use military force or threaten to bomb anyone if they do not ban chemicals. It is soft power but with a hard edge, the threat of being excluded from our markets, which nobody wants. I think it is something that the EU should really expand in the future. We are showing that it can be done, that you actually can have a competitive industry even though there are strict environmental rules.
Mr Jørgensen is a Member of the Group of the Progressive Alliance of Socialists and Democrats in the European Parliament.
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Biocidal Products Committee:
26 February-1 March
Committee for Risk Assessment:
6-8 March and
Committee for Socio-Economic
Management Board meeting:
23-27 March (tentative)
Member State Committee:
20-24 April (tentative)