The European Chemicals Agency (ECHA) says it intends to quadruple the number of checks it undertakes on the registrations of thousands of chemical substances used in the bloc. The move is part of an effort to improve compliance with the EU’s Registration, Evaluation, Authorisation and Restriction of Chemicals (REACH) legislation. ECHA also intends to streamline its systems for checking registrations, improve law enforcement, and clarify information requirements for industry, says Ofelia Bercaru, head of dossier evaluation at ECHA.
ECHA admits that of the 2,700 REACH registration dossiers pertaining to 700 chemical substances filed by industry that it has assessed in the past 10 years that two thirds are noncompliant due to missing or inaccurate data. Until now, ECHA has been required to undertake compliance checks on just 5% of the registrations for substances used in the EU. The agency is proposing that it will increase compliance checks to 20% of all registrations and 35–40% of registrations for the largest volume chemical substances.
ECHA’s planned policy shift comes within a few weeks of the publication of a report by the European Environment Bureau (EEB), a collection of more than 150 environmental organizations across Europe, in which the EEB claims there is widespread breaking of chemical safety law and lax official enforcement. A study by BUND, a German environmental group and member of the EEB, completed in April and cited in the EEB’s report, asserts that five of the world’s largest chemical companies are among 654 firms that are failing to comply with REACH.
The EEB is calling for increased transparency of information associated with REACH registrations, along with the imposition of tougher sanctions, including fines and the naming and shaming of noncompliant companies, without delay. “ECHA has sat on this problem for years. We see the agency moving in the right direction, but why all the secrecy?” says EEB Chemicals Policy Manager Tatiana Santos.
CEFIC, Europe’s largest chemical industry association, says it will do what it takes to remedy the situation. “We take ECHA’s findings—that the quality of data in a number of REACH dossiers needs improvement—seriously,” says Marco Mensink, director general for CEFIC.