Select Committee on Science and Technology Written Evidence


APPENDIX 11

Memorandum from the British Cement Association

EXECUTIVE SUMMARY

  Although, the Chemical Legislation being proposed by the European Commission is intended to address the risks of using "chemicals" it would include other products such as those of the cement industry.

  Cement has been produced for well over 100 years and the risks associated with its use are already well known.

  Cement is regulated for CE marking purposes via harmonised European Standard EN 197-1.

  Rather than basing registration requirements upon a rational assessment of known or potential risks, cement will be classified as a priority under the EU Chemicals Legislation due to the registration system being based upon tonnages produced.

  The industry believes that the Registration process will require it to undertake unnecessary testing (given the history of the product) that may include vertebrate testing.

  The Prime Minister, in collaboration with the German Chancellor and the French President wrote in September 2003 to the Commission President, Romano Prodi, stating that the proposals were "too bureaucratic and unnecessarily complicated" and demanding substantial changes to "ensure we do not place unnecessary burdens on industry."[33]

  Although UK Government and Ministers support the objectives of the proposals, they have been highly critical of their likely costs, as well as the potential damage to industry. They have declared that they would like to see a more effective prioritisation, with a reduction in scope to more manageable proportions.[34]

  However, Defra, who lead the UK Government's negotiations on the REACH proposals, actively supports the inclusion of Cement within their scope.

  In order to prevent an "unnecessary burden" on the cement industry, avoid duplication of regulation and additional bureaucratic demands, cement should be exempted from the REACH Proposals.

  UK Government and its Departments should support such an exemption in order to deliver its own stated aims and objectives in relation to the proposals.

INTRODUCTION

  1.  Cement would seem to be without the original intention of the European Commission when considering their initial proposals, as well as beyond a common perception of the material being a chemical. The European Commission referred to a total World Volume of chemicals of 400Mt in their White Paper on the Chemicals Policy Review in February 2001, whereas the world cement industry manufactures 1,750 Mt per year.

  2.  The European Commission does not appear to have taken account of the effect of the proposals on the Cement Industry by including it as a chemical under the proposed EU Chemicals Legislation. Their justification appears to be based on the inclusion of cement as an existing substance in the European Inventory of Existing Commercial Substances (EINECS), Number 266-043-4. They have, however, confirmed that it is the intention to treat cement as a "preparation" under the REACH proposals. The definitions of substance, preparation, intermediate and article, as set out in the proposals would be difficult to apply to the cement sector.

  3.  Cement has been produced for over a hundred years and the risks associated with its use are already well known. The Cement Industry and the Health and Safety Executive (Construction Information Sheet No 26), Annex I (not printed), already provide appropriate advice on the safe use of cement. Cement is already covered by the Construction Products Directive and an amendment to the Restrictions on Marketing and Use Directive with respect to soluble chromium VI. It is regulated for CE marking purposes via harmonised European Standard EN 197-1. In that framework Health, Safety and Environmental issues are being dealt with under Essential Requirement No 3 (ER 3). The proposed REACH regulations, therefore, offer no benefit for the environment or users of cement. They merely introduce more cost, bureaucracy and an element of uncertainty for manufacturers.

  4.  Rather than basing registration requirements upon known or potential risks, cement will be classified as a priority under the EU Chemicals Legislation due to the registration system being based upon tonnages produced. This is inappropriate. Furthermore, any additional requirements applied to substances that are persistent in the environment should not be applied to cement. Under the current proposals the Cement Industry will have three years to register its products. However, given previous delays in receiving regulatory authorisations, the industry has little confidence that the Central Agency/Member State will be able to cope with all the Registrations it is likely to receive. The position the industry would be placed in, if the Registration process is delayed is unclear.

  5.  The industry believes that the Registration process will require it to undertake unnecessary testing (given the history of the product) that may include vertebrate testing.

THE UK CEMENT INDUSTRY'S PRIORITIES FOR AMENDMENTS TO THE EU CHEMICALS LEGISLATION

1.  Cement should be exempted from the EU chemicals legislation

1.1  Justification for exemption

    —  The risks associated with cement are already known; additional testing, cost and bureaucracy required by the REACH proposal are an unnecessary duplication. Advice on the safe use of cement is available from the Health and Safety Executive and from the cement manufacturers.

    —  Definitions in the proposed legislation formulated for use chemicals but are unsuitable in relation to cement eg "substance", "preparation", "intermediate", "article" and "persistent".

    —  Cement is covered by the Construction Products Directive and an amendment to the Restrictions on Marketing and Use Directive, and regulated via a harmonised European Standard EN 197-1. Within this framework, Health and Safety issues are already covered, see Annex II (not printed).

    —  The detail required on physico-chemical properties listed in Annex V of the proposal is unnecessary with respect to cement. For example, there seems little justification for undertaking new tests for relative density or flammability, which could have little bearing on the risks associated with cement usage.

    —  It is known that if the proper personal protective equipment is not used when handling wet cement, burns and dermatitis (in the long term) can occur. The testing requirements set out in the Annexes to the proposed legislation do not take cognisance of years of experience of working with wet cement. This reinforces the impression that the proposal is not intended to address materials such as cement.

    —  Whilst vertebrate testing has been carried out at the European level to determine the classification of cement, it appears that further, and in the industry's view, unnecessary testing will have to be carried out to ensure compliance.

  1.2  Implication if amendment is not made

    —  Unnecessary testing, possibly vertebrate testing will have to be undertaken.

    —  The proposals overlap with the Construction Products Directive, Restrictions on Marketing and Use Directive and harmonised European Standard EN 197-1. This will lead to duplication, confusion and legal uncertainty.

    —  In order to avoid duplication of regulation and additional bureaucratic demands, cement should be exempted from the REACH Proposals.

    —  UK Government and its Departments should support such an exemption in order to deliver its own stated aims and objectives in relation to the proposals.

  Should an exemption for cement not be forthcoming, then the industry would submit the following commentary:

2.  Central Agency

2.1  Need for a Central Agency

  The European Commission's proposal only centralises the registration process. The Evaluation process is left to individual Member States in a complex and bureaucratic procedure. Additionally, a Member State can begin an Evaluation for a substance on the basis of suspecting that a substance poses a risk.

  A Central Agency should be established for the speedy and efficient introduction of the REACH Regulations. The Central Agency should be responsible for all aspects of the REACH Regulations including the Evaluation process. The Central Agency should have the powers to prioritise substances of concern and exempt low risk substances.

2.2  Implication if amendment is not made

  There would be no certainty in the evaluation process and there would be potential distortions in the internal market.

3.  Appeals Procedure

3.1  Need for an Appeals Procedure

  In the Regulations there is no mechanism for an appeals procedure.

3.2  Implication if amendment is not made

  The only mechanism for appeal will be through the European Court which is costly and slow.

4.  Presumption of continued operation when the regulator fails to meet deadline

  4.1  The UK Cement Industry invariably experiences delays, which occasionally run into years, when obtaining permissions/authorisations (albeit from the Environment Agency). With the sheer volume of chemicals falling under this regime and the slow progress made historically on the classification of chemicals, it is inevitable that the Member States and the proposed Central Agency will struggle to cope. When the Regulator fails to meet the required deadlines, there should be a presumption that manufacturing operations can continue.

4.2  Implication if amendment is not made

  Uncertain but there are a number of obligations on the Regulator to respond within a given timeframe.

  If there are delays in setting up the system, operators will be faced with uncertainty with respect to Registering on time etc.

5.  Testing

  5.1  The proposed Regulations require a whole range of testing that appears to ignore the industry's experience in the use of cement. Unfortunately vertebrate testing was necessary, at the European level, to ensure cement carried the correct classification of irritant and this evidence would be submitted as part of the Registration process. However, issues such as toxicity and ecotoxicity may require further vertebrate testing. There does not appear to be much logic in the range of testing to be carried out. The Cement Industry and its Regulators are well aware of the risks of using cement. In the cement sector the main issue is with first use of cement and any health and safety effects on operatives not environmental persistence. The Central Agency should have the flexibility to reduce the level of testing required.

5.2  Implication if amendment is not made

  Unnecessary testing and further expense for the industry.

6.  Risk based priorities

  6.1  Cement is manufactured in high tonnages and under REACH, thereby becomes a priority substance. It does not make sense for the Central Agency to focus on cement. The product has been in use for over a hundred years and the risks associated with its usage are already well known. A better method for establishing priorities should be derived where a "preparation" has already been classified and regulated as a "construction product".

6.2  Implication if amendment is not made

  Unnecessary focus on cement and a diversion of the Central Agency's resources.

7.  Persistence

  7.1  By its very nature cement, in its hydrated/hardened form in concrete, persists in contact with the environment. This does not mean, however, that cement poses any "persistence" risk. Indeed the fact that concrete/mortar is used for drinking water pipes and passes leaching tests before regulatory approval suggests otherwise. The Central Agency must be able to apply some discretion/circumspection as to how the priorities and testing requirements are set.

8.  Authorisation

  8.1  There are no data in the "List of substances subject to authorisation" under Annex XIII. In fact, the whole basis on which it will be decided whether an Authorisation is necessary is vague.

9.  Obligation for downstream users to report information

  9.1  In the case of cement, this requirement appears to be excessive. The risks associated with the use of cement remain very similar regardless of the end use. What use will it be for the Agency to receive information from manufacturers of concrete/end users of concrete? This obligation should be removed.

9.2  Implication if amendment is not made

  Unnecessary work and expense for downstream users. More information for the Central Agency to handle.

January 2004



33   Letter, dated 20 September from the Prime Minister et al to Commission President, reported in the Financial Times, 23 September 2003. Back

34   Letter to the Financial Times, Lord Sainsbury, Science Minister and Alun Michael MP, Minister for Rural Affairs, 26 September 2003. Back


 
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