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Keep CLP, GHS aligned under EU chemicals strategy, say industry groups

Keep CLP, GHS aligned under EU chemicals strategy, say industry groups

Strategy appears to deviate from global harmonisation, say ICTA and AmCham EU

Two industry organisations have told Chemical Watch they are concerned that the EU’s new chemicals strategy for sustainability will deviate from the international harmonisation of classification and labelling of substances.

The International Chemical Trade Association (ICTA) and the American Chamber of Commerce to the EU (AmCham EU) said they support the strategy’s plan, set out in the section 'Setting the example for a global sound management of chemicals'. This will see the Commission "promote, together with industry, the implementation of the Globally Harmonized System of classification and labelling of chemicals (GHS) as the means for identifying chemical hazards and communicating them to operators, workers and consumers" internationally. 

However, they highlighted that there are also plans to propose new hazard classes and criteria in the EU's CLP Regulation to "fully address" environmental toxicity, persistency, mobility and bioaccumulation. 

ICTA and AmCham EU are concerned that if the EU authorities plan to move the CLP Regulation beyond GHS alignment, this will slow progress on global harmonisation. Chemical supply chains are long and complex, with substances and mixtures regularly crossing several borders before being sold to the downstream user, said ICTA secretariat, Willem van Lanschot. By supporting those countries and regions in adopting the same rules, the GHS improves employee understanding of chemical hazards at an international level, he said. 
"Thanks to the standardised classification system, there is less need for testing chemicals against multiple classification systems. Moreover, the standardised label formats reduce the compliance burden, for instance by removing the need for relabelling," added Mr Lanschot. Because its members are distributing chemicals globally, ICTA "objects to anything that hampers the level playing field globally, such as hazard classes in the CLP Regulation that are not (yet) listed in the UN GHS," he said.

Some of the proposals in the strategy "seem to be moving away from GHS rather than working towards it and a truly globally harmonised system", said Alexander Majer, AmCham EU lead on sustainable chemicals.
One example is endocrine disruptors, AmCham EU said, where the Commission has "hinted at potential measures" under the CLP Regulation in advance of discussions at GHS level. Because CLP is designed to implement GHS in the EU, any policy changes should first be discussed at the international level to ensure consistency and ensure GHS is truly harmonised across geographies, it added. ICTA calls on the Commission to "bear in mind that other countries implementing UN GHS may be less advanced" in dealing with complex scientific criteria and need extra support.

An EU official told Chemical Watch that the Commission is internally discussing the detailed implementation of the individual actions of the strategy, and their coordination.  Follow up proposals will also assess, if relevant, the socio-economic and environmental impact of the future proposals, the official said.
"Stakeholders will be involved in monitoring and providing input in the overall implementation of the strategy through the high level roundtable, and the Commission will inform in due time on its actual organisation and process."

However, it did not clarify whether the addition of any proposed hazard categories to CLP would first be discussed at the international level, by the time of publishing.

World will follow
Tatiana Santos, policy manager at NGO the European Environmental Bureau (EEB), said GHS sets minimum common standards to classify and communicate hazards, which is "extremely useful to encourage laggard countries with no such system and to ensure coherence globally". 

However, countries can improve these standards by adding new categories while respecting the criteria and general rules under GHS, she said. "GHS was substantially, if not fully, based on the former EU classification and labelling system. We were leading the world in classification and labelling of chemicals, and for that reason GHS was inspired by our standards," said Ms Santos.  "Since the EU aims to champion chemicals management globally, it not only can but must, lead on new hazard classes under the EU system. The rest of the world, via GHS, will follow us, I’m sure," she added. Ms Santos concluded that the EU's new chemicals strategy is a "watershed moment". "It is time for all those backward-looking chemical companies opposing new hazard categories to embrace rather than continue resisting progress and ignoring science".

Read the article at Chemical Watch 

Chemical substance regulations around the globe

Chemical substance regulations around the globe

One of the challenges for chemical distributors is ensuring compliance with the different chemical legislations for all jurisdictions in which they operate. Several countries have well-established regulatory systems, while others are currently developing new regulation for chemical substances. Often these countries use a system similar to EU REACH.  

The ICTA SSHE Committee has produced a useful general overview of the upcoming deadlines based on information found online. This overview can help ICTA members get a first understanding of local applicable legislations and find their way to the relevant legislation. The document covers Australia, Canada, China, EU, India, Japan, Russia, South Korea, Turkey, US, UK. Note that Vietnam is also working on a national chemical inventory, requiring companies to submit e.g. tonnage bands and safety datasheets. 

Cooperation with OPCW formalized

Cooperation with OPCW formalized

With the poisoning of Alexei Navalny with Novichok, it has become clear that chemical weapons are still a very relevant threat. This means a relevant role is still to be played by the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW). While ICTA has already been cooperating with OPCW for quite a while, it has now formally joined the OPCW  Chemical Industry Coordination Group. The formalization of the cooperation has raised the status of ICTA at OPCW.

ICTA stresses importance of preventing diversion in chemical supply chains

ICTA stresses importance of preventing diversion in chemical supply chains

The G7 Global Partnership has revised its strategic vision to focus more on chemical weapons, a global culture of chemical security, capacity building and working with industry to raise awareness. In his role as chair of the Chemical Security Working Group, the representative of the Department of Homeland Security stressed the need to engage industry effectively. At that moment, however, ICTA was the only chemical industry representative in the room. It was noted that evidence shows Syria exploited weak links in international supply chains to source substances for their chemical Weapons of Mass Destruction program.

During the meetings the OPCW advised that their program and budget for 2019 had been approved. OPCW is recruiting for ten new posts to support the new work plan. There is broad support for OPCW’s work on verification, national implementation and terrorism, but some political divisions remain as key questions. There was for instance a perception that some members of OPCW sought to block effective OPCW action in response to the use of chemical weapons in Syria and UK (Salisbury). Verification planning in Syria is ongoing, but the planned work budget currently has a €800k shortfall. OPCW is also looking to fund cyber security, business continuity and physical infrastructure.

The EU gave a presentation stating that CBRN (chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear) threats are real. Internet terrorist propaganda and handbooks are spreading quickly, despite counter efforts. The attack in Salisbury was an eye opener at EU level. It has triggered actions to strengthen resilience to attacks with chemical weapons. The EU has therefore launched a CBRN Centre of Excellence initiative with €156m funding to build capacity. The EU is also developing a common list of threat chemicals, which it has almost finalized and is based primarily on the USA CBRN list. The EU’s next steps is to intensify dialogue with private actors in the precursor supply chain. The EU also wants to improve detection technology and first response capabilities.

On behalf of ICTA, Peter Newport welcomed the redevelopment of an EU list of threat chemicals. He pointed out that the existing list is based on risk perception, not science. He expressed the importance of taking a scientific approach when composing the new list and the importance of sharing the new list with industry. Without information sharing, there can be no effective control of listed substances. It became clear that the EU still concentrates on post supply chain diversion detection technologies, instead of on preventing the diversion in the first place. Meetings have been held with detector technology and equipment vendors, but not yet with chemical vendors. ICTA has expressed its firm belief that the focus should be on preventing diversion.

ICTA will continue to be involved with chemical security in 2019. Chemical security events in Bangladesh and Brussels (for EU & Turkey) took place and are expected to take place in March respectively.

The official report can be found here.

     
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