BCF ‘Cautiously Optimistic’ of Chemical Regulations
The British Coatings Federation has expressed “cautious optimism” about a newly published policy direction from the United Kingdom’s Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs regarding chemical management.
About the Proposed Direction
Because of the United Kingdom’s departure from the European Union in 2021, the government is establishing an independent regulatory framework for chemicals known as UK REACH. REACH stands for the Registration, Evaluation, Authorization and Restriction of Chemicals.
Originally, it was intended to copy the legislation in the U.K., including the full database of chemicals, under what were termed Transitional Registration plans.
However, Defra reportedly found in an impact assessment that the cost to industry of this proposal was disproportionate and began to consult on a more workable alternative transitional registration model. The original registration deadlines were then delayed for the process to take place.
UK REACH reportedly retains both the fundamental approach and key principles of the EU REACH and is focused on ensuring that Great Britain continues to uphold “high levels of protection of human health and of the environment.”
In response to concerns raised by the chemicals industry about the significant cost to businesses of accessing EU data packages to support UK REACH transitional registrations, Defra and the Health and Safety Executive and Environment Agency have been exploring options for an alternative transitional registration model.
The alternative model document can be accessed here. It outlines the government’s plans for UK REACH, aiming to reduce the costs to industry associated with buying or accessing EU hazard information.
This simultaneously will also reportedly continue to ensure protection of human health and the environment. A consultation on the proposals is expected to be published in early 2024.
Latest Coatings Industry Response
According to the federation’s emailed release, the new proposals reportedly seem to respond to concerns previously expressed by the BCF on behalf of the coatings industry and others in the chemical supply chain. This included 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.
However, in the latest update, the statement calls for only “the essential minimum” hazard data to be required for “transitional registration” substances, except in cases where U.K. regulators’ concern, or global evidence suggests, detailed reviews or more data is needed.
The federation explains that this target approach on “hazard” data will be accompanied by a greater focus on collecting “use and exposure” at work data to build knowledge of how chemicals are used across the U.K. and consequently risk management.
While industry input is still needed, the BCF says the new proposal offers potential for a more workable and proportionate system, without lessening existing protections to the environment or human health and safety.
Additionally, a period of consultation on key elements of the plan, including the amount of data required in individual registrations, is anticipated.
“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,” said Tom Bowtell, CEO of BCF, in a statement.
“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.”