Can SUBSPORT Help Chemical Companies Move Towards Safer Alternatives?

© SUBSPORT

SUBSPORT launched last week at a meeting of many of Europe's major players in the Chemicals industry, as representatives from industry, the regulatory authorities, and interested NGOs came together to review progress on safer use of chemicals in the wake of Europe's humongous new chemicals legislation, REACH.

REACH Will Force Safer Chemical Use

REACH stands for Registration, Evaluation, and Authorization of CHemicals. The evaluation step involves agencies checking that industry studies, required to prove that a chemical can be used safely, do scientifically support the case that the chemical, as used, is safe -- meaning it will not harm workers, the public or the environment. The authorization step is intended to speed up effective bans of chemicals suspected of having hazards that have no "safe" level; although it is called authorization, it really means a complete ban on the chemical except in authorized uses (those where the benefits still outweigh the hazards).

REACH has now passed the first deadlines intended to initiate a faster review of chemical hazards and better prioritization of chemicals to ban -- including speedier introductions of bans for the many chemicals of concern that continue to make headlines with no apparent progress to protect consumers. As a result, companies are facing looming restrictions on how they use chemicals, expensive measures to continue to use them in a manner that can be proven safe, and pressure to eliminate suspect chemicals before they get sucked into the regulatory vortex.

SUBSPORT Helps Industry and Users Get Ahead of Looming Restrictions

SUBSPORT offers links to substitution tools offered by various agencies that can help industries identify and prioritize chemicals for substitution. There is a case study database, searchable by multiple fields. The database can be used by industry or research organizations to share successful substitutes.

Other links help users understand their legal obligations to find safer alternatives, to identify substances that are already banned or restricted, and training on substitution steps as well as links to offline training courses.

The SUBSPORT portal was launched by the International Chemical Secretariat (ChemSec), a non-profit NGO launched by four Swedish environmental organizations.

Example: Bisphenol A

Searching this well known endocrine disruptor and sensitizer returns five case studies, including a look at BPA in thermal printing. With nearly all dollar bills tainted by BPA, build up of BPA in blood -- especially of cash registry workers who are often females of childbearing age, and BPA found in the umbilical cords of newborns, it is high time for replacement.

SUBSPORT presents a balanced case study, noting that the common substitute -- Bisphenol S -- raises concerns due to being in the same chemical family as BPA. The portal presents another alternative, one which is not suspected of having the low-level negative effects associated with bisphenols. The study notes that the replacement chemical can be an aquatic toxic of middle severity, but this hazard is more easily managed than the pervasive contact hazards of BPA.

What the Regulators Can Learn

Agencies like the US Environmental Protection Agency have long used case studies to help industry improve on toxic chemical performance measures -- sometimes even as incentives to "voluntary" improvements in the hope of avoiding the politically messy necessity to actually regulate industry. In closing remarks at last week's meeting, European Chemicals Agency Executive Director, Geert Dancet, said he is "very curious to look at the SUBSPORT portal tomorrow and see what we can learn from that".

With the European REACH regulation as a huge incentive, industry should welcome any help they can get.

Tags: Bisphenol A | Chemicals | European Union | Toxins