LONDON A group of European pressure groups focusing on environmental issues have welcomed the publication of the first REACH "candidate list" of hazardous chemicals by the European Chemicals Agency (ECHA) but warned the list is merely a "drop in the ocean".
While recognizing the list offers a vital tool in speeding up the substitution of hazardous chemicals with safer alternatives, the organisations say they are disappointed that member states and the European Commission have failed to make the list more comprehensive.
The first list, officially released Wednesday ( October 29) is a welcome start, but "it is a drop in the ocean when compared to the hundreds of well-known dangerous substances present in products used every day across Europe", the coalition of environmental, health and consumer public interest groups said in a statement.
Representatives of the coalition include Greenpeace, the European Environmental Bureau, the Friends of the Earth Europe EACH campaign and the Health and Environment Alliance.
European consumers will be able to walk into a shop, pick up any product off the shelf, from a toothbrush to a laptop, and be informed within 45 days on whether it contains any of the chemicals on the candidate list. But hundreds more substances will continue to be used despite their well-documented harmful qualities, the pressure groups maintain.
Restrictions on phthalates (DINP, DiDP and DNOP) similar to those now on the candidate list already exist under the EU Toys directive, they note, but so far no member state has suggested these substances be included in the REACH list. Bisphenol-A, a well-known endocrine disrupter, has also been left out of the list.
Only six EU member states (Austria, Germany, France, the Netherlands, Sweden, Norway and the U.K.) have so far put forward chemicals for the candidate list. So the coalition of public interest groups also repeated its call for member states and the Commission to expand the list to make it more representative of the hundreds of hazardous chemicals that are currently known.
Among the 15 chemicals that are on the list, brominated flame retardant HBCDD is a common environmental contaminant used in plastics, textiles, electronic goods and three plastic softeners (the phthalates DEHP, DBP and BBP).
The groups urge ECHA to adopt strict regulatory controls on these chemicals immediately. They do recognize, however, that many progressive companies have already started to phase them out, including major players in the electronics sector , who have eliminated the uses of brominated flame retardants and PVC.
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