European Chemicals Agency recommends seven chemicals be made subject to special authorisation to stay on market

The European Chemicals Agency (ECHA) has recommended that seven chemicals, including plasticisers, flame retardants and a fragrance enhancer cannot stay on the European markets without specific authorisation.

These are the first chemicals to be selected for authorisation under the European Union’s Reach legislation, according to which substances of very high concern (SVHC) can only remain on the market under certain conditions. These are that there be no suitable alternative to the chemical, that producers can demonstrate any risks associated with the substance can be adequately controlled, or that there are sufficient socioeconomic reasons for the substance’s continued availability.

’The protection of human health and the environment is at the heart of Reach and submitting the use of these seven problematic substances to authorisation moves us a little closer to that goal,’ says Geert Dancet, director general of the Helsinki-based ECHA.

Over the next several years there will be a steady flow of substances being added to agency’s candidate list for authorisation as a result of regular submissions of dossiers on individual chemicals by EU member states.

Eerwin Annys, director for Reach at the European Chemical Industry Council (Cefic) sees the trend continuing: ’As member states become experienced at drawing up dossiers, the additions to the candidate list will become more numerous.’

Among the seven prioritised chemicals are three phthalate plasticisers: bis(2-ethylhexyl)phthalate (DEHP), benzylbutylphthalate (BBP) and dibutylphthalate   (DBP), all considered toxic for reproduction. 

Also included is hexabromocyclododecane, a brominated flame retardant, categorised as persistent , bioaccumulative and toxic (PBT), and short-chained chlorinated paraffins (SCCPs) used as flame retardants and/or plasticisers and classified as PBT and very persistent and very bioaccumulative (vPvB).

The other two substances on the list are musk xylene, a vPvB fragrance enhancer used in detergents and fabric softeners, and 4,4`-diaminodiphenylmethane (MDA), a carcinogenic hardener used in epoxy resins and adhesives.

The substances, which have been prioritised for authorisation from an original list of 15 candidates published last year, were chosen on the basis of their hazardous properties, the volumes used and the likelihood of exposure to humans or the environment.

The agency’s recommendation will now have to be endorsed by the European Commission before the chemicals are subjected to an authorisation process which should take up to four years to complete. If producers fail to apply for or gain authorisation, the chemicals will be withdrawn from the market.

The Reach authorisation process is now swinging into action as EU governments acknowledge the need to ease the administrative and cost burdens of the legislation on the chemicals industry and its customer sectors.

In the formulation of a long-term EU industrial policy, the Competitiveness Council, comprising industry and trade ministers of the member states, instructed the Commission last month to monitor the impact of Reach on business, particularly small and medium enterprises, while emphasising that the legislation should strengthen industry’s competitiveness and innovation.

Sean Milmo