In an article published on January 12, 2018 by EurActiv Opinions, Apolline Roger, chemical project leader at non-profit organization ClientEarth, discussed the current pitfalls and future needs for sharing information on harmful chemicals in the European Union (EU). Making such information public “can improve chemical safety and promote innovation to find alternative solutions to harmful chemicals,” Roger said.
Before the adoption of the REACH regulation in 2006, “public authorities had sufficient knowledge on hazard and risk for only 140 out of 30’000 chemicals.” Although by now the European Chemicals Agency (ECHA) does “know far more about chemicals, their risks and how, where and why they are used,” there is still insufficient knowledge for about 3’000 chemicals on the market, Roger observed. Further, she urged ECHA to share this “strategic information” with “third parties,” such as “civil society, consumers, citizens, innovators and investors,” who need it “to accelerate the substitution of harmful chemicals with safer solutions.”
The new report by ClientEarth identified four categories of strategic information held by ECHA which are “indispensable” for those working on the phase-out of harmful chemicals: Information on the identity, hazards, and production volumes of chemicals; information on the function of chemicals; information on companies’ behavior with regard to “comply[ing] with their obligations to ensure chemical safety;” and “information on the rationale of the EU institutions’ decisions related to ensuring chemical safety.”
Roger reminded that “ECHA is legally obliged to share most of the information it holds with the public under EU law.” In this regard, ClientEarth’s report concluded that ECHA indeed “has made much progress in publishing information that was kept secret for a long time.” However, some essential details such as, e.g., use patterns or information on producer companies are missing. Furthermore, it called on ECHA to “embrace its responsibility towards the public, worry less about industry’s reaction and be bolder in complying with its obligation.”
Apolline Roger (January 12, 2018). “Four reasons EU institutions should and must share more information on harmful chemicals.” EurActiv Opinions
Nick Hazlewood (December 19, 2017). “ClientEarth attackes ECHA’s ‘failure to meet transparency obligations.’” Chemical Watch
ClientEarth (December 18, 2017). “10 years in: Time for ECHA to disseminate strategic information to empower third parties.”