May 6, 2012
The problem of Chemical coctails still emerges and can be considered as a relatively new field of chemicals. It is quite easy to understand why are chemical coctails in the very center of interests of scientific and legal professionals and why are they one (1.) of the three most dangerous categories of chemicals – in line with Endocrine Disruptors (2.) and Nanosubstances (3.) – where the existing framework of the law of the Union – including the famous REACH regulation – does not provide an efficient level of protection of health and environment.
Let’s assume that neither substance ‘A’ nor substence ‘B’ have harmful properties alone. Nonetheless, if they are mixed with each other, it may happen ex. that above 100 C this new coctail became explosive. Or ‘simply’ they will have corrosive, carcinogen, mutagen or other harmful effects which do not occur if the components are separated. Additionally, if we use instead of either substance ‘A’ or substance ‘B’ a ‘mixture’ (which contains in itself already several substances) the possibilities of occuring potential harmful effects of such chemical coctails would emerge accordingly.
With this basic, theoretical example it is obvious why shall we take those ‘chemical coctails’ seriously and in that matter, the precautionary principle must be applied doubly.
I can clearly remember that under the Hungarian Presidency in the first half of 2011, Denmark – who was always a flagship of new environmental initiatives – put forward at ministerial level a proposal aiming at accentuating the relevance of this problem in the Council. So, it is not a surprise that the Commission is likely to present a new strategy paper on chemical combination effects in this May, under the Danish EU presidency, followed by other initiatives in 2012 and in 2013.
The European Parliament is well aware of the problem and closely monitors this process. May I draw the attention to its resolution of April 20 on the review of the 6th Environment Action Programme and the setting of priorities for the 7th Environment Action Programme . In this legal text, EP gives clear political indications under the title ‘Environmental quality and health’, in point 44., fourth subparagraph, as follows:
“The Europpean Parliament
44. Takes the view, given that poor environmental conditions have a substantial impact on health, involving high costs, that the 7th EAP should notably:
– provide for the development of specific measures relating to emerging human and animal health threats, currently not sufficiently addressed, to examine the effects of new developments on human and animal health, such as nanomaterials, endocrine disruptors and the combination effects of chemicals, on the basis of scientific studies and commonly accepted definitions, where available;”
Obviously, any kind of new proposals will be based on existing scientific evidents which are collected in the recent Commission’s 2010 study which serves as a basic document for further legal steps.
We shall bear in mind that Europe and the EU is often considered worldwide as a leading regulator in the chemicals sector who is strongly committed to discover new pathways in that specific area with serious health, environmental and economic effects. The REACH regulation is one of the cornerstones of this leadership-role since the global influence of REACH is clearly visible: other important countries (ex. Chine, Thailand) are interested therein. However, any kind of such advantage in the chemical sector can be easily overshadowed by the very fast scientific development.
Taking into account two decisive factors, namely that
1. – the chemical sector is strongly dependent on the latest scientific data,
2. – the EU still spend less for Research & Development than its global partners,
it is not a surprise that the EU’s leading role is in danger in that matter, too. And since the field of chemical coctails is such an identified territory where it is already stated that the EU does not meet the required protective level of regulative framework, this circumstance may be – among other factors – a signicficativ competitive disadvantage in spite of other global actors/countries.
Thus, it is of utmost importance that the above mentioned paper be placed on the table as soon as possible (in May).
The perspectives of the future coctail-regulation are not so optimistic, either. Not only because of the scientific complexity of the territory but also because of the fragmented legal framework. The law of the Union is very complex in that regard, and several pieces of legislation regulate the dangerous chemicals (REACH, CLP, Biocide regulation, PPP regulation, waste legislation etc.). From a legal point of view it makes a difference which legal way will be choosed. Either to implement all new element in every single existing regulations/directives or to draft a completely new legislation dedicated to regulate coctails (and endocrine disruptors and nanosubstances).
The EU legislators (COM, Council, EP) are not in a favorable position: there is a need for a new, stricter regulation in order to reach a higher level of protection of health and environment and to maintain competitivness in the global world on the one hand, and there are the above mentioned special scientific and legal complex issues on the other.
Although the situation is complicated and difficult, the example of the succesful adoption of the new biocide regulation clearly demonstrates that with political will and with a lot of flexibility, ‘impossible’ can be deleted from the European stakeholders’ dictionary.
Those who are interested can read this Bloomberg article about this issue:
I remain at your disposal.
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(Cover photo © Wikipedia)Hungarian-European Citizen for Better Health