The European Chemicals Agency (ECHA) has stated it will start disclosing which companies are producing hazardous chemicals requiring a safety data sheet. ChemSec welcomes this move towards increased transparency but finds key transparency issues not yet solved.
In a lawsuit initiated last spring, ChemSec together with environmental law organisation ClientEarth asked ECHA to disclosure the names of the producers of SIN List chemicals, identified by ChemSec as Substances of Very High Concern in accordance with REACH criteria.
– We find it unclear whether ECHA now intends to disclose the names of the producers of all registered chemicals, which EU citizens certainly have the right to know, or only for those with a safety data sheet, says Jerker Ligthart, ChemSec senior chemicals advisor.
Some of the SIN List substances are not yet officially classified, and hence ECHA's move does not guarantee that also the producers of e.g. equivalent concern substances (including endocrine disruptors), which currently do not have an agreed classification and labelling system, will be disclosed.
Moreover, ECHA still refuses to disclosure in which quantities chemical companies produce and/or import hazardous chemicals, information that is crucial from a transparency point of view, closely linked to the exposure of European citizens, and the health implications that it gives rise to.
ECHA will start publishing information from new substance registrations later this year, however ECHA has not specified when this will be initiated. Existing registrations will undergo a "re-submission period" to allow companies to claim confidentiality retroactively. It is not clear how long this time period will be and when data about existing registrations will be publically disclosed.
The confidentiality claims need to fulfil three criteria in order to be considered justified:
- a declaration that the information is not in the public domain or general knowledge in the industry
- a demonstration of a commercial interest worthy of protection for non-disclosure of the information
- a demonstration that disclosure of the information would cause potential harm to the commercial interest of the registrant or a third party
– We believe greater transparency within the chemical sector is essential for the progress of corporate sustainability strategies and the elimination of hazardous substances in consumer goods. It is clear that this first step towards higher transparency is a direct outcome of our court case, says Anne-Sofie Andersson, ChemSec director.
ECHA's announcement to disclose some registrant information comes one and a half years after the first registration deadline, and one year since ECHA promised to disclose more information about REACH registrations following the ChemSec/ClientEarth lawsuit.
Previously, information about chemical producers was publically available in the ESIS (European chemical Substances Information System) database. Moreover that information was not limited to only classified substances. In that regard, ECHA's actions do not come close to pre-REACH standards.
– REACH, which in a few weeks has been in place for five years, should deliver more transparency than this, a prerequisite to achieve its purpose of ensuring a high level of protection of health and the environment, says Jerker Ligthart, ChemSec senior chemicals advisor.