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US moves towards stricter chemicals regulation

By Simon Pitman , 12-May-2006

The United States is making moves towards introducing stricter guidelines on the use of chemicals in all industries. The action comes in response to the introduction of REACH in Europe, which will see tighter regulations for a number of fine chemicals, many of which are used in personal care products and there packaging.

Although the US authorities have aimed criticisms at the REACH program in the past over its expense and bureaucracy, current US legislation, which was implemented in 1976, is now starting to look dated.

The Toxic Substance Act (TSCA) basically leaves states and local authorities to regulate over chemical processing and production, leading to a widespread disparity in safety standards and its implementation.

 

However, the prospect of higher regulatory standards and the added protection and safety that REACH will bring to EU residents is prompting US authorities to pull their finger out.

 

This is due mainly to the fact that US businesses could be black-listed in Europe for not fulfilling the requirements of REACH.

 

The European regulation program for chemicals was first introduced four years ago, primarily aiming at tightening up the use of potentially toxic chemicals. For the cosmetics industry this had had, and will have, a significant impact on both formulation and packaging.

 

For the European cosmetics industry REACH means that substances used in cosmetic, toiletry and perfumery products, as well as other consumer products, will have to undergo in-depth assessment and fulfill all the new regulatory requirments.

 

The upstart of the EU regulation is that companies will have to replace about 200 of the most toxic substances with safer alternatives.

 

They will also have to show that about 1,500 less hazardous substances, such as phthalates - commonly used in packaging and cosmetics formulation, are used with 'adequate control' and to suggest potential alternatives.

 

What is now happening in the US is that, in response to REACH individual state authorities are starting to impose their own stricter regulations on chemicals in an effort to comply with EU regulations.

 

And, according to a WWF report, the trend is expanding from individual substances to cover potentially toxic chemical families such as mercury and phthalates.

 

Currently a bill is under way to replace the TSCA. First introduced to the US senate in July 2005, the Child, Worker and Consumer-Safe Chemicals Act is set to create similar regulations to that imposed by the REACH program in Europe.

 

The bill still has to be considered by the Senate first, which means that a positive feed-back could be implemented as early as 2007.

 

But with REACH about to be fully adopted within the EU, it seems that it will be in the interest of US chemical interests in Europe for the new legislation to be introduced sooner rather than later.

 

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