ECHA to reveal REACH registrants of chemicals

Agency being sued for failure to do so earlier

THE European Chemicals Agency (ECHA) is to publish on its website the names of registrants of chemicals under the EU Registration, Evaluation, Authorisation and Restriction of Chemicals (REACH) legislation.

The announcement appears to be in response to a lawsuit brought against ECHA by environmental law organisation ClientEarth and chemicals watchdog ChemSec. They alleged that ECHA would not release the names of companies producing chemicals identified as substances of very high concern (SVHC) under REACH laws. ClientEarth has compiled a list of 356 SVHC called the SIN (Substitute it Now) list, which are carcinogenic, mutagenic or damage the reproductive system, as well as some that persist in the environment.

Under REACH legislation, all companies in the EU producing or importing chemicals must register them with ECHA. The lawsuit claims that ECHA refused to disclose the facilities the chemicals were produced in, or the quantities. ClientEarth and ChemSec say that this refusal is in breach of EU transparency laws.

“The public’s right to information on chemicals is a basic principle of the REACH regulation. ECHA must not be allowed to withhold information on such a critical issue, especially as it relates to chemicals found in consumer products and present in the EU in large quantities. We have exhausted all avenues to make ECHA meet its transparency obligations and are now compelled to go to court,” said Vito Buonsante, toxics lawyer at ClientEarth.

ECHA, meanwhile, said that it has yet to receive any formal notification of the court case, and any comment on the allegations will be made to the court. The decision to begin publishing names of registrants and some other information contained within chemicals’ safety data sheets on the dissemination section of the ECHA website was taken following a legal review.

ECHA said that the information will not be immediately available on its website because companies must first be given time to apply for confidentiality, although this will only be given where a valid justification is given and accepted. The change will also require “significant technical revisions” to its computer systems, IUCLID and REACH-IT.

ChemSec said that it welcomed ECHA’s announcement but that it did not go far enough. It said that ECHA has made no guarantees about the nature of the information it will reveal nor given a timeframe.

Buonsante added: “ECHA says it will still assess claims of confidentiality even though no legal provision foresees the confidentiality of company names in this context. We have a totally different understanding of the right of the public to access documents held by public institutions and we will continue to press ECHA to release this information. Information on chemicals is registered to ECHA in the interest of the public, not in the interest of industry.”

(Information from TCE today)