Environmental Protection

Texas Companies May Feel the Heat of REACH

More than 30 chemicals made or imported by companies in Texas -- including Exxon Mobil, Shell, DuPont, Dow Chemical, and Equistar -- have been classified as dangerous by the European Union (EU). As a result, these companies will be directly affected by controls imposed under the EU's new chemicals regulation, concludes Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) in a recent report, Across the Pond: Assessing REACH's First Big Impact on U.S. Companies and Chemicals.

The report finds that many of the hundreds of chemicals already identified as dangerous by the EU are being produced or imported in the United States in large amounts and at many different sites, with Texas at the top of the list. The findings provide compelling evidence for the U.S. Congress to protect public health by reforming the nation's primary chemical safety law, the 32-year-old Toxic Substances Control Act.

"The fact that so many chemicals already designated as dangerous by EU officials are actively being produced and used in the United States should dispel any notion that the problem is limited to only a few 'bad actors,'" said Richard A. Denison, Ph.D., EDF senior scientist and author of the report. "Toxic chemicals grabbing recent headlines -- such as bisphenol A used in baby bottles and food cans, phthalates used in kids' toys, and flame retardants used in furniture -- are just the tip of the iceberg in terms of chemicals that demand scrutiny."

"This report serves as an early warning to companies making and using these dangerous chemicals that they will be at a competitive disadvantage unless they proactively seek to eliminate exposures and develop safer alternatives," Denison cautioned. "Scrutiny of these chemicals is only going to grow, so chemical companies should support efforts to modernize the decades-old U.S. chemicals policy that has shielded chemicals from needed testing and appropriate control."

Last year, the EU adopted its sweeping new chemicals regulation -- Registration, Evaluation, Authorization and Restriction of Chemicals (REACH) -- under which companies must register all chemicals they place on the EU market in amounts above one metric ton. A hallmark of REACH is its identification of so-called "substances of very high concern" (SVHCs). REACH's intent is ultimately to allow use of such SVHCs only when each use has been specifically authorized.

"REACH's requirements will fully apply to U.S. companies that make chemicals for the EU market," Denison concluded. "This report is the first to determine which companies report making SVHCs in the United States. Once these chemicals become subject to REACH's authorization requirements, these companies will need permission from EU officials to sell them in the EU."

EDF based its analysis on a list of nearly 300 SVHCs issued last week by the International Chemical Secretariat (ChemSec), a Swedish nongovernmental organization. ChemSec dubbed its list the "SIN List," for "Substitute It Now," which reflects the group's interest in promoting safer alternatives to SVHCs wherever possible. The list represents the first effort to identify the range of chemicals expected to be subject to authorization under REACH.

EDF compared the SIN List to the most recent publicly available data from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency that identifies which companies reported making or importing these chemicals in the United States. EDF found that many, and likely most, of the SIN List chemicals are manufactured or imported in the United States.

EDF used the most recent publicly available data, which were collected by EPA in 2002 for calendar year 2001. Given the dynamic nature of the chemical market, some of the data in this report may have changed. In addition, because EPA allows companies to claim the identities of chemicals they produce, as well as their own identities, to be confidential business information, this report only includes chemicals and companies that are not claimed to be confidential business information.

EDF's report is available at www.edf.org/AcrossThePond. The ChemSec SIN List is available at www.chemsec.org/list.

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