US, Canada and Mexico develop regional partnership

The US, Canada and Mexico have agreed to develop a regional partnership to assess and manage the potential risks from industrial chemicals. But unlike the EU’s Reach legislation, the deal will not lead to a single, unified chemicals regulation for all the countries. 


Source: © A P Photos

"US President Bush, left, Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper, center, and Mexican President Felipe Calderon agree to develop a North American partnership on control of industrial chemicals

The three countries will retain their own chemicals regulation and registration procedures. But the 21 August agreement will see greater information sharing, plus each country further tighten its own regulations on chemicals they manufacture or import. 

The US currently registers all of the 2200 high production volume (HPV) chemicals manufactured or imported into the country in quantities greater than 1 million pounds (450 tonnes) per year. The country has now pledged to extend this to the 9000 chemicals produced above 25,000 pounds (11 tonnes) per year by 2012.  

Meanwhile, Canada will by 2012 complete an assessment of high priority substances, and begin to assess medium priority substances, and Mexico will develop an information system for dangerous materials. 

’Mexico currently has no chemicals inventory,’ Charles Auer, Director of the US Environmental Protection Agency’s Office of Pollution Prevention and Toxics, told Chemistry World. ’The US and Canada will provide technical assistance to help Mexico realise an inventory.’ The agreement should also reduce duplication in chemicals testing between the three countries. ’For example, the initial assessment of medium production volume chemicals in the US will apply the results of Canadian hazard categorisation work,’ said Auer. 

The deal will not break new ground in chemicals regulation in the way that Reach strives to do in Europe. But it promises to be less burdensome for industry, said David Taylor, director of environment and sustainability at AstraZeneca. The North American schemes, like most others in the world, require manufacturers to supply a safety data sheet on their products to the user, Taylor said. But with Reach, manufacturers must also supply risk management information for the end user. 

The EPA followed the agreement by releasing hazard characterisation data on the first 101 HPV chemicals on 10 September. Each compound’s data sheet lists toxicity and other hazards, and includes an EPA assessment on the quality and completeness of the data.  

The EPA will complete characterisation of the entire HPV inventory by 2012, with the data being used to develop risk assessments on each chemical.