Transparency within REACH? : Regulatory risk assessment of industrial chemicals

Sammanfattning: Chemicals provide us with many benefits but can also have adverse effects on human health and the environment. Concerns that previous European legislations were not providing adequate protection from chemical risks resulted in a new chemicals legislation – REACH – in 2007. According to REACH, the chemical industry must ensure that risks from chemicals they produce or import at or above one tonne per year can be adequately controlled. Data on the chemicals’ properties and uses, hazards and risks as well as instructions for safely handling the chemicals, must be provided by industry to the European Chemicals Agency (ECHA) before the chemicals are allowed on the European market. The information is used by ECHA and the competent authorities of the Member States to identify chemicals of concern that warrant regulation. Thus, the registered data need to be reliable and relevant as well as transparently reported to ensure that chemicals of concern can be identified. The aim of this thesis was to provide insights into the risk assessments carried out by industry under REACH to contribute to a safer use of chemicals.The results in this thesis show that information that is used for concluding on hazards and risks of chemicals as well as industry’s conclusions are reported in a semi-transparent manner and therefore difficult for third parties to fully scrutinise and evaluate (paper I). This was in part due to the protection of confidential information as laid down by law but also related to ECHA’s procedures for making information available to the public as well as industry’s reporting. Furthermore, industry is only required under REACH to summarise (eco)toxicity studies that are gathered for the risk assessment. Consequently, data based on industry studies that are not publicly available cannot be scrutinised and independently assessed by third parties. Thus, the system relies on studies being accurately summarised by the registrant although this was not always seen to be the case (paper IV). Furthermore, the current framework for industry to evaluate (eco)toxicity studies and report data evaluations under REACH was found to be neither systematic nor transparent (paper II). Studies may not be evaluated based on their inherent scientific quality when the Klimisch method for evaluating data is used, which is the recommended data evaluation method under REACH. Using the Klimisch method may also result in giving less weight to non-standard studies, such as many academic research studies, than studies performed according to standardised test guidelines, although non-standard studies could contribute with important information to the risk assessment. The structure and transparency of data evaluations could be improved by using a framework that has clear criteria and guidance as well as a structured format for reporting data evaluations (paper III). This would support more harmonised and transparent data evaluations and encourage studies to be evaluated according to their inherent scientific quality rather than mere compliance with standardised test guidelines.The overall objective of this thesis is to contribute to the development of systematic and transparent risk assessments under REACH, which is critical for using chemicals safely.

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