20242023 | 2022 | 2021 | 2020 | 2019 | 2018

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