A newly published ‘policy direction’ by Defra for UK Reach has been received with cautious optimism by the British Coatings Federation.
The BCF said the new proposals seem to respond to some of the concerns it previously expressed, in particular, that full data dossiers for all 20,000 chemical substances currently in the EU Reach database did not need to be recreated in a stand-alone UK Reach database. The new statement calls for only ‘the essential minimum’ hazard data to be required for ‘transitional registration’ substances, except in cases where UK regulators’ concern, or global evidence suggests, detailed reviews or more data is needed.
This more targeted approach on ‘hazard’ data for transitional registration substances will be accompanied by a greater focus on collecting ‘use and exposure’ at work data, building knowledge of how chemicals are used across the UK and therefore the risks that might need to be managed. While the latter will still require substantial input from industry, overall, the new proposal seems to offer the potential for a much more workable and proportionate system, without lessening existing protections to the environment or human health and safety.
There will follow a period of consultation on key elements of the scheme, including, crucially, the amount of data required in individual registrations.
Tom Bowtell, CEO of BCF, said: “While the devil will be in the detail, the British Coatings Federation gives an initial cautious welcome to Defra’s new proposals for UK Reach. We are grateful for the work of officials and Ministers in getting us to this point, but we now need to see the detail in the formal consultation and impact assessment documents, which we hope will be published soon.
“From what we can see so far, though, the new approach seems more proportionate and workable than the original and will mean the UK still remains at the forefront of environmental and human safety when it comes to chemicals regulation. It takes account of the work carried out elsewhere in the world by other regulatory regimes and allows UK regulators to focus their time and resources on those substances and uses where there may be most legitimate concerns. Indeed, this approach could mean regulators are able to better police concerns than under the current system. Taken together, these steps seem a sensible way to deal with the issue after Brexit.
“We look forward to continuing to engage with Defra through the forthcoming formal consultation process to turn this broad direction of travel into a detailed, workable and proportionate regulation. As a trade association that represents downstream users of chemicals in a vital part of the UK economy, the BCF is well placed to assist in this process. We want to help ensure the new system is robust yet practical for businesses to comply with easily and effectively, to help secure the future of UK manufactured formulated products.
“It has taken more than two years to get to this point. However, the seemingly positive steps contained in today’s announcement move us closer to providing industry with the level of certainty it requires about the future of UK chemicals regulations. That certainty is essential to ensure future investment in our sector, and we hope further progress is made quickly from this point on.”