Report examines what US can learn from EU chemicals law

Feb 28, 2012

U.S. industry and environmental groups agree that the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) of 1976 needs to be modernized to better protect public health and the environment. However, there is no consensus on what the reform should look like.

A new report from Indiana University supplies a close examination of the European Union's reformed chemicals law REACH (Registration, Evaluation, Authorization and Restriction of Chemicals), which went into effect in 2006.

After reviewing data and interviewing key , including manufacturers, importers and REACH experts, researchers from the IU School of Public and Environmental Affairs and the IU European Union Center have released "Regulating : Lessons for U.S. Policy Makers From the European Union's REACH Program."

"As the U.S. Congress considers whether and how to modernize TSCA, much can be learned from the European experience with REACH," said SPEA Dean John D. Graham, a co-author of the report. "Some aspects of REACH are innovative and promising, while others are overly burdensome and complicated."

While the report examines all areas of REACH, the primary focus is on the program's chemical registration process. REACH shifts the burden of proving safety from the government to industry. REACH's key principle -- "no data, no market" -- compels manufacturers of substances, producers of articles and importers to supply regulators a minimum safety-related data set for a large number of existing chemicals.

"One of our most important conclusions is that there needs to be a clear and consistent definition of 'safety' throughout any new chemical regulatory program," said the report's lead author, Adam Abelkop, a doctoral student in SPEA.

Researchers have identified several aspects of the EU program that merit consideration by U.S. policymakers as well as areas that could be refined and modified to be more transparent, simplified and suitable for the U.S. context. Highlights of the report indicate that a REACH-like system in the United States should focus on opportunities to reduce risks to human health and the environment. In addition, new legislation should provide clarification about critical standards, processes and tools while lessening unnecessary burdens on industry by allowing for mutual, cross-Atlantic recognition of registration dossiers.

"This suggestion would ease obligations on companies that do business on both sides of the Atlantic and would lessen the work of the regulators," said REACH consultant Agnes Botos, co-author of the report and a Central European University doctoral student. "That is why it would be worth doing a more detailed analysis about this topic."

According to SPEA professor Lois Wise, co-author of the report and director of the European Union Center and West European Studies at IU, REACH offers an alternative approach to the process of chemical regulation and control providing a greater understanding of how regulatory processes work.

"Our interest is in the extent to which the European experience implementing this complicated and innovative piece of legislation can inform efforts to revise TSCA," she said. "This study, examining the process of REACH implementation, provides useful insight for policymakers."

On March 2, SPEA and the European Union Center will host an invitation-only seminar in Washington, D.C., that includes a panel of international experts who will discuss Europe's early experiences with REACH and issues related to TSCA reform.

Explore further: Implications for the fate of green fertilizers

More information: The complete report is available online at www.indiana.edu/~spea/faculty/pdf/REACH_report.pdf

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

EU tightens rules for chemical industry

Oct 11, 2006

The European Union plans to tighten environmental regulations for the bloc's $680 billion chemical industry, setting the stage for a bitter fight.

Recommended for you

Implications for the fate of green fertilizers

8 minutes ago

The use of green fertilizers is a practice that has been around since humans first began growing food, but researchers are warning that modern techniques for the creation of these fertilizers could have implications ...

Ditching coal a massive step to climate goal: experts

1 hour ago

Phasing out coal as an electricity source by 2050 would bring the world 0.5 degrees Celsius closer to the UN's targeted cap for climate warming, an analysis said on the eve of Tuesday's UN climate summit.

Monitoring heavy metals using mussels

4 hours ago

A research team in Malaysia has concluded that caged mussels are useful for monitoring heavy metal contamination in coastal waters in the Strait of Johore. Initial results indicate more pollution in the eastern ...

Climate change report identifies 'the most vulnerable'

6 hours ago

Extreme weather events leave populations with not enough food both in the short- and the long-term. A new report by the Environmental Change Institute (ECI) at the School of Geography and the Environment ...

User comments : 0