ChemSec and other groups raised the issue with the intention of assuring Substances of Very High Concern (SVHCs) for which safer alternatives exist, do not continue to be used.
At the moment, a substance is identified as a SVHC and put on the candidate list where it can be nominated to go through the authorisation process.
There are only two substances in the pipeline on the list at the moment with others coming up this autumn, said Dr Anna Lennquist, ChemSec toxicologist.
Once a substance is nominated for authorisation it gets a “sunset date” meaning after this date the substance cannot be used if authorisation has not been granted for other specific uses.
“The authorisation process gives the possibility for industry to apply for continuous use of the substance in selected applications. To get authorisation, the applicant needs to show that there are no available alternatives for this application,” she added.
The recommendations were to the European Chemicals Agency (ECHA), the European Commission, the European Parliament and EU member states.
They outline that third parties as well as the applicant should be responsible for providing information on safer alternatives.
The European Commission takes the decision on an authorisation, based on the opinions of the Committee for Risk Assessment (RAC) and the Committee for Socio-Economic Analysis (SEAC) who decide whether any alternative is safer than the current chemical being used.
When asked what her hopes where for the recommendations, Lennquist added: “My hope is that ECHA and also the member states take on the role to assure that relevant information on alternatives is brought forward in the process, and that industry sees this as a great opportunity to increase the awareness of the alternatives they produce.”
She said the problem is that the responsibility to find available alternatives lies with the applicant and believes ECHA and the member states should take larger responsibility.
“Proving that an alternative is in fact suitable for the specific use requires quite a lot of technical expertise. I think the only ones who could do this in a good way would be the producers of alternatives, rather than environmental NGOs.
“As I see it there is really a need for a strong counterpart to the applicant to investigate the availability of alternatives, and it’s not very clear who is taking up that role.”
Some of the recommendations include:
- third parties should be able to actively participate in all different stages of the authorisation process discussions where an authorisation of a SVHC may be decided
- all information in an authorisation application should be made public and confidentialityclaims should only be granted very restrictive and on a case by case basis
- interested third parties such as downstream users associations, technological institutes and academia, trade union institutes, NGOs etc are contacted
- an alternatives competition for third parties that provide viable substitutes forproblematic SVHC, especially where authorisations may be granted, is launched
Other NGOs involved include the European Environmental Bureau, Health and Environmental Alliance (HEAL), ClientEarth, Greenpeace and Chem Trust.