Competition and confidentiality under Reach


01 February 2006

Katharine Sanderson, LondonUK

Global competitiveness is motivation for the chemical industry to make Reach work, industrialists were told yesterday.

Industry controls its own fate as the EU's registration, evaluation and authorisation of chemicals (Reach) legislation comes into force, said Stephen Elliot, acting director general of the Chemical Industries Association (CIA). If Reach implementation goes wrong, industry will bear the brunt of the blame, he cautioned.

Elliot was addressing a meeting of leading industrialists, where concern about imported goods from outside Europe was high on the agenda. Confusion surrounds the rules for subjecting imported goods to EU regulations. 

Elliot told Chemistry World that this area of the legislation was 'very messy'. This is not just a competitive issue, he urged, the health and environment of member states relies on it. The risk of sullied reputation will prevent the import of dangerous chemicals, and is one ray of light in the confusion, he said.

There is concern among some companies over a loss of confidentiality under Reach. 

Data on company products must be shared under the legislation. David Friedman, from the US National petrochemical and refiners association (NPRA) said that, since 1998, US companies have entered into a voluntary programme similar to Reach. Those companies waived their right to confidentiality, he said, but the initiative became a way for industry to spread information. The NPRA has tabled an amendment to be considered in Reach's second reading, aiming to reduce the burden on non-EU companies that still want to operate within Europe.

Each EU state must now identify a competent authority to police Reach. In the UK, this will be either the Environment Agency or the Health and Safety Executive. This needs immediate action, said Elliot at the CIA. Reach offers a graphic opportunity for industry to address product safety, he said. 'There is no excuse for member states to sit back and think about it.'