Chemical Lobby proposes to reinvent and duplicate OECD Chemicals Program

Erica Smith, CIEL Legal Intern
Erica Smith, CIEL Legal Intern

A leaked joint proposal by US and EU chemical lobby groups, the ACC and CEFIC respectively, released during the latest round of negotiations for the Trans-Atlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) shows that ACC and Cefic aim to slow and alter the pace of chemicals regulation in the EU.  None of the ideas in this paper would produce meaningful increases in the efficiency of trade among the two blocks or reduce costs to governments without sacrificing stricter controls for toxic chemicals.  The proposal would, in fact, create additional bureaucratic layers that would increase the costs of government to taxpayers, and duplicate efforts by the OECD on chemicals over the past several decades.

The ACC-CEFIC proposal endorses the creation of a Regulatory Cooperation Committee as an international body of regulators to influence how the EU and US develop and implement legislation.    A recent report by CIEL describes how the proposed Committee would result in significantly slowing or even freezing the development and implementation of chemical legislation necessary to protect people and the environment.

ACC-CEFIC’s proposal calls for the Committee to have the authority to, among other things, make vital decisions regarding: the amount of scientific evidence that would be necessary and sufficient to regulate toxic chemicals; the development of common methodologies and approaches to chemical hazard and risk assessments; the type and number of chemicals prioritized for regulatory review processes; and the level of precaution used when dealing with endocrine disruptors and other “emerging” hazards.

A number of these activities have already been undertaken through the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development’s (OECD) existing multilateral regulatory cooperation work on chemicals over the last 30 years, making the creation of an additional regulatory committee an additional burden for an already woefully slow regulatory process.  OECD processes and methodologies are not without their shortcomings, but repeating the process offers no meaningful benefits.

For example, the OECD already provides for chemical cooperation in various ways.  OECD Test Guidelines have been developed for hazard assessments.  Under the OECD Mutual Acceptance of Data Programme (MAD), chemical testing data generated in any Member State (including the US and EU) in accordance with OECD Test Guidelines and Principles of Good Laboratory Practices is accepted in other Member States for environmental and human health assessment purposes.  OECD Member States also participate in Cooperative Chemicals Assessment Programme (CoCAP) which utilizes OECD-wide hazard assessments while also allowing for financial burden sharing and reduced duplication between Member States.

With regards to “emerging” hazards or chemicals that have been identified to be of concern, the OECD Member States have agreed upon a number of test guidelines, including a tiered approach to the identification of potential endocrine disrupting chemicals.  These have shortcomings, but the foundation for cooperation already exists.  Additionally, the OECD has created a standardized way for OECD member states to uniformly report chemical test summaries dealing with physico-chemical properties of nanomaterials, another area of concern.

ACC-CEFIC also proposes a mutual acceptance of chemical notifications and registrations under the US’ Toxic Substances Control Act and the EU’s REACH regulations. This proposal echoes the 2005 OECD “Parallel Process,” initiative, a multilateral agreement on chemical notifications.  Currently, the EU is not a participating member in this Parallel Process, because EU REACH requires registration with a minimum data set, not notifications, which in the US require no minimum set of health and safety information. It is highly unlikely that the US and EU could agree on mutual acceptance provisions of notification and registration without undermining the no-data, no-market principle of REACH.

Ultimately, the ACC-CEFIC proposed “Cooperation Committee” duplicates much of the work already undertaken by the OECD’s chemical programs. The creation of an additional regulatory oversight super-body solely between the EU and US will give the chemical industry undue influence in the early stages of chemical regulation, with the objective to limit the application of stronger policies in the EU for the use of hazardous substances.

Originally posted on March 15, 2014.