CEFIC Working to Improve REACh Compliance

06.06.2019 -

On the back of growing criticism of the perceived inadequacy of REACh compliance, European chemical producers have stressed they are working to help rectify the situation. The problems are not new, the producers insist. Nevertheless, both companies and the European Chemicals Agency have been accused of foot dragging.

In presenting the REACh agency’s annual progress report last spring, Björn Hansen, ECHA’s then-new executive director, acknowledged that important safety information was missing. He said 2,586 information requests had been sent to registrants, but the response rate needed improvement.

Several weeks later, Marco Mensink, director general of European Chemical Industry Council (CEFIC), defended the industry’s efforts, asserting that “REACh is working.” At the same time said the council’s member companies had invested more than €2 billion in compliance and provided data on more than 20,000 substances to ensure that no supply chain disruptions occur.

Shortly before an important stakeholder conference in Helsinki last month, the industry moved back in the spotlight when the German Friends of the Earth affiliate, BUND, produced a scathing report – based on documents obtained under the German Freedom of Information Act. It accused major chemical producers of not having their product dossiers complete or up to date, often in violation of the law.

Names mentioned included five of the global top ten chemical companies by sales – BASF, Dow Chemical, Ineos, ExxonMobil and SABIC.

CEFIC has now pledged to improve transparency. Its director general, Marco Mensink, said European chemical companies take seriously ECHA’s finding that the dossiers need improvement and will be ”fully transparent” about actions to remedy the situation “where it is appropriate.” In an update on the earlier figure, he said data had been provided on 22,000 substances since the beginning of REACh.

Mensink said CEFIC is already working with ECHA and the European Commission to identify areas where action is needed. A plan to be finalized by July 2019 would list “concrete actions” on compliance to be completed by the end of 2027. The plan also calls for an increase in the number of compliance checks the REACh agency must conduct.

Calling BUND’s action “not helpful at all,” the CEFIC director said the NGO was “naming and shaming companies who are already working hard to effectively and efficiently address REACh dossiers in line with the latest methodologies, guidance and better use of alternative strategies to minimize animal testing.”

Utz Tillmann, managing director of the German chemical industry association Verband der Chemischen Industrie (VCI), said chemical producers had complied early on with the rules to resort to animal tests only when they could not be avoided and had included “alternative information” in their dossiers.

Because the rules for the dossiers changed during the legislation’s registration period, Tillman said some dossiers still need to be brought up to date. Such a large volume of data cannot be processed and adapted in a short time, he said.