May 5, 2003
Volume 81, Number 18
CENEAR 81 18 p. 11
ISSN 0009-2347


Revised document softens some hard-line positions


This week, the European Commission will release the preliminary draft of its long-awaited policy for managing industrial chemicals. The EC will publish the 1,200-page document on its website and will take comments from the public for a month via the Internet.

The EC will then pull together a formal legislative draft to be presented to the European Parliament and the Council of Ministers for consideration. Both of these bodies can amend or reject the draft.

As it is emerging, the policy—which was born two years ago as a consultation white paper—can be seen as a partial rebuff to the stringent regulatory approach favored by European Environment Commissioner Margot Wallström. Instead, it accepts a more pragmatic course.

The heart of Wallström’s design has been retained: the REACH program of registration, evaluation, and authorization of chemicals. But there have been significant changes, according to Reinhard Schulte-Braucks, who heads the chemicals unit in the EC’s Enterprise Directorate.

Under the new proposal, a system of exemptions will be made for polymers, although monomers and additives must be registered. And chemical intermediates will be covered by a four-level classification, ranging from exemption to required registration. REACH program deadlines are much more flexible.

Other changes are possible, Schulte-Braucks points out, particularly following next year’s European Parliament elections. The EC will see a complete new set of commissioners and an increase in the number of member countries. These shifts could mean profound—or cosmetic—amendments and changes to the chemicals policy, which is expected to be adopted in 2005.


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Copyright © 2003 American Chemical Society