A letter to Björn Hansen
I hope that you have settled in well in Helsinki and that you are beginning to find your feet at ECHA.
In your new position I expect that you will focus on making the agency’s work more efficient. I also hope that you will guide the agency towards a greater focus on human health and the environment.
I ask this of you, because in the light of the REACH Review it is clear to me that REACH is not delivering at the pace that could be expected. This is a matter of serious concern.
What I find confusing and contradictory is that while the REACH review states that REACH has delivered too slowly, the ECHA progress report on the SVHC roadmap says something seemingly different: “all currently known relevant substances of very high concern (SVHCs) have been addressed”.
“Which substances are seen as relevant and which are not? And what does ECHA mean by addressed?”
The keyword here is relevant. Which substances are seen as relevant and which are not? And what does ECHA mean by “addressed”?
The SVHC Roadmap sets out a strategy for prioritisation among potential SVHCs, and this is fine, even if we find the term “substances that matter” a bit problematic. REACH clearly states that all substances identified as SVHCs shall be added to the Candidate List.
The Candidate List has such an important role: it has been proven to drive innovation, and has also encouraged companies to look into possibilities for substitution according to the Commission staff working document. Recently it was also given a new, important role in the circular economy through the amended Waste Directive.
This autumn ECHA published a report, using the SIN List as an example of how substances are screened for further action. This report showed that only 7 of the 912 SIN substances on the SIN List needed further scrutiny, when in fact only 174 substances were then on the Candidate List.
We criticise this communication in our report called “Pick Up the Pace”. When we read the Roadmap annual report for 2017, we again see the same communication we criticised in “Pick Up the Pace”.
“I therefore call on you Björn, in your new role, to assure that ECHA will speed up the processes of addressing chemicals of high concern”
I would therefore like to bring this criticism to your attention by asking some specific questions, which you can find below.
Going through all REACH processes, we also discovered that there is no single part or process that could be blamed for the slowness.
Many times it’s rather parts of industry that have succeeded in manufacturing doubt, resulting in a paralysis by analysis whereas the precautionary principle could have justified legal action.
I therefore call on you Björn, in your new role, to assure that ECHA will speed up the processes of addressing chemicals of high concern, look beyond the first round of priority criteria, and find ways to limit the paralysis.
My specific questions:
Do you agree that non-registered substances could also be relevant for the Candidate List?
Non-registered substances may be low-volume chemicals, they may enter the EU through imported articles or they could be candidates for regrettable substitution. If so, when is it planned to start evaluating non-registered chemicals for Candidate Listing?
Non-registered substances make up about half of the SIN List chemicals and about half of the substances ECHA considers as “potential or known SVHCs”.
In your view, are classified CMRs adequately regulated through the requirements that apply following their classification?
If not, why are they deselected in the screening process? 80 SIN List chemicals have been deselected from further scrutiny as they are classified as CMRs.
According to the Commission staff working document, the Candidate List can also include EDCs, PBTs and vPvBs for which, in the next step, the best regulatory option is restriction. Despite this, substances that are restricted are deselected in the screening process.
What is your view on listing restricted substances on the Candidate List and vice versa?
In ECHA’s view, almost a third of the SIN List substances are “addressed” because they are scheduled for evaluation, either by an expert group or under CoRAP.
We are concerned, because so far very little has come out from these processes, and in most cases the conclusion is that more data is requested. These requests have then frequently been brought to the board of appeal.
“What is your plan to assure that the discussions in the expert groups actually bring substances closer to the Candidate List?”
What is your plan to assure that the discussions in the expert groups actually bring substances closer to the Candidate List and will not continue to serve as a way of keeping substances off the regulatory radar for a number of years?
According to a statement by Geert Dancet, an important reason for the slow pace of listing substances on the Candidate List is huge pressure from industry.
How will ECHA assure that it resists this pressure more effectively and sticks to the scientific hazard criteria for Candidate Listing?
I am looking forward to an ongoing discussion with you and ECHA on how to really address all relevant SVHCs.