Conference reports Tension between those who have information and those who need it. Will REACH be helpful?
The Fourth Stakeholders’ meeting gathered more than 400 delegates from government, industry, and labor, as well as consumer, environmental, health, and animal welfare groups and non-governmental organizations. The hottest discussion focused on the issue of information sharing.
Published on balticworlds.com on juni 21, 2010
Have you ever seen chemicals in the Baltic Sea? Probably not, unless you have “superman X-ray vision” skills. However, chemicals are present in the Baltic Sea and cause adverse effects on our lives and environment.
In the last decades various measures have been taken by the international community, the EU and the HELCOM in order to improve the situation. HELCOM started the chemicals “fighting initiatives” already in the 1970s, uniting the efforts of the East and the West and in a way being a “pioneer” of breaking the iron curtain.
Even though there are signs of particular chemicals decreasing and the health of Baltic Sea living organisms improving, the latest HELCOM report states that life in the Baltic Sea is “disturbed by hazardous substances”. Thus, there are still challenges connected with health and environmental risks posed by chemicals.
The new EU chemicals regulation REACH was adopted to ensure a high level of protection of human health and environment from such risks in all EU member states. REACH will affect the Baltic Sea area as well. The new regulation makes industry responsible for providing information about produced chemicals. The chemicals that are not registered under REACH will have no permission to be traded in the EU.
The Baltic Worlds had a chance to participate in the Fourth Stakeholders’ meeting in connection to REACH in May 2010. This event gathered more than 400 delegates from government, industry, and labor, as well as consumer, environmental, health, and animal welfare groups and non-governmental organizations. The meeting aimed at launching the REACH dissemination website that provides information about chemicals registered by the industry. The hottest discussion focused on the issue of information sharing. Industry representatives argued that this would jeopardize commercial confidentiality. However, it can allow industry to withhold certain safety-related information that can imperil EU citizens’ lives. The representatives of REACH stressed that in the future all will profit from increased information.
Under REACH, November to come is the first major deadline for chemicals registrations. Up to 5,000 substances will be registered and become part of the REACH database by the end of 2010. While industries seek to restrict access to some data, as part of their intellectual property, some information might still become available if decided that the requests for confidentiality are not fully justified.
Anyway, scientific community will definitely benefit. “This will give us a clearer picture of risks that we are facing in the Baltic Sea”, a RISKGOV-researcher stressed. As defined in the RISKGOV project conducted at Södertörn University, the lack of information is one of the main barriers for the effective management of chemicals.
The access to information is important not only for the scientific community but also a fundamental value of civil society. Perhaps the ordinary European citizen cannot see dioxin in the Baltic Sea; moreover, he usually does not read scientific articles; however, he has a right to be informed about possible hazardous effects of chemicals that can easily enter the water that he drinks.
More information about the meeting http://echa.europa.eu/news/events/4th_stakeholders_day_en.asp
- The Helsinki Commission, or HELCOM, works to protect the marine environment of the Baltic Sea from all sources of pollution through intergovernmental co-operation between Denmark, Estonia, the European Community, Finland, Germany, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Russia and Sweden http://www.helcom.fi/
- REACH is the Regulation on Registration, Evaluation, Authorisation and Restriction of Chemicals. It entered into force on 1st June 2007. It streamlines and improves the former legislative framework on chemicals of the European Union (EU) http://ec.europa.eu/enterprise/s ectors/chemicals/reach/index_en.htm