Select Committee on Science and Technology Written Evidence


Memorandum from Greenpeace


  1.  Greenpeace is supportive of the stated objectives of REACH, but deeply concerned that in its current form it is unlikely to deliver any real benefits, either in terms of protection of health and the environment, or of stimulating innovation towards safe chemicals. This is primarily because, as drafted, REACH will permit continued manufacture of toxic substances that accumulate in the human body even when a safer alternative is available.

  2.  Article 57 currently allows even the most hazardous and superfluous chemical to be produced if it is "adequately controlled". There is no requirement to seek safer alternatives or demonstrate a social need for the chemical as long as the risk from exposure is considered small. This is no different from the current system. We believe that it will be difficult and time consuming to resolve individual cases of "adequate control"—just as it is under the current system. Are phthalates in toys "adequately controlled"? When brominated flame retardants burn in an incinerator or landfill fire are they adequately controlled? If hormone disrupting chemicals are showing up in breast milk are they adequately controlled?

  3.  The intrinsic properties of substances of high concern, particularly persistence and bioaccumulation, make the concept of "adequate control" entirely inappropriate for this group of chemicals. The way in which it undermines the objectives of REACH is illustrated in Article 57 which proposes that an Integrated Pollution Prevention and Control (IPPC) permit will signify production of a chemical is adequately controlled and can continue. IPPC regulates emissions and discharges of chemicals into the environment by setting allowable discharge limits. It was not designed to deal with persistence and bioaccumulation (by which low levels of chemicals dispersed in the environment are re-concentrated through the food chain). IPPC will allow the continued discharge of many dispersed sources of chemicals of high concern into the environment, even when there is no pressing need for this.

  4.  In order to solve this serious weakness in REACH the authorisation procedure should contain the following elements:

    —  all authorisations should be temporary. This will encourage innovation of alternatives and ensure a controlled phase-out of substances of high concern;

    —  REACH must include consideration of emissions from production processes and not defer this to IPPC; and

    —  the decision to grant or refuse an authorisation should be based primarily on the availability of an alternative. If a suitable, economic, alternative is available that in itself should be sufficient reason to refuse an authorisation and render further risk assessment, risk management or arguments about adequate control superfluous.

  5.  The following text changes to REACH are required to achieve systematic substitution of substances of high concern with safer alternatives.

  Article 52 should be amended to read:

  The aim of this title is to ensure the good functioning of the internal market while assuring that substances of very high concern are replaced by suitable alternative substances or technologies, or where no suitable alternative is available, the risks are properly controlled.

  Article 57.2 should be deleted, removing the "adequate control" route to authorisation.

  6.  Article 57.3 should be amended to read:

  An authorisation may be granted only if there are no suitable alternative substances or technologies and it is shown that socio-economic benefits outweigh the risk to human health and/or the environment arising from the use of the substance and if measures to minimise exposure are put in place. This decision shall be taken after consideration of all of the following elements:

    (a)   the risk posed by the uses of the substance;

    (b)   the socio-economic benefits arising from its use and the socio-economic implications of a refusal to authorise as demonstrated by the applicant or other interested parties;

    (c)   the analysis of the alternatives submitted by the applicant under Article 59 (5) and any third party contributions submitted under Article 61 (2);

    (d)   available information on the health and/or environmental risks of any alternative substances or technologies.

  7.  Article 58.1 should be amended to read;

  1.  All authorisations shall be subject to a time-limit and shall expire at the end of the time-limit

  8.  Article 59.5 should be amended to read;

  The application shall also include:

    (a)   a socio-economic analysis conducted in accordance with Annex XV;

    (b)   an analysis of the alternatives considering their risks and the technical and economic feasibility of substitution, where appropriate accompanied by a substitution plan, including research and development and a timetable for proposed actions by the applicant;

  9.  Articles 59.6 (a) and 59.6 (b) should be deleted as these effectively mean emissions of substances of very high concern from chemical producers will not be considered under the authorisation procedure.

December 2003

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