Pressure groups ChemSec and ClientEarth are taking legal action against the European Chemicals Agency (ECHA), in an attempt to force the agency to release the names of companies that produce some of the most hazardous chemicals. ECHA has thus far refused, and the groups hope that the legal action in the General Court of the EU will lead to the publication of the names of the manufacturers, importers and tonnages of the 356 chemicals on ChemSec’s ‘Substitute it now!’ list.
ECHA has responded by saying that some information from the registration dossiers will be made available, but ChemSec scientific advisor Jerker Ligthart says this does not go far enough.
‘We asked ECHA last year to name all the companies and tonnages of these substances, but they told us this information is confidential,’ he says. ‘We appealed to ECHA’s executive director, who agreed to give some information on accumulated tonnages for a couple of substances. But for the company names, there was still a complete blank, and they said we would have to go to the courts. We did this, which suddenly resulted in a note from ECHA that they would release the information about the producers, but they are only going half way; it’s not for all the substances, and companies may still appeal and claim it’s confidential information.’
He adds that it does not include many important chemicals that are hazardous to human health, such as endocrine disruptors, as ECHA says companies provide this information on a voluntary basis. ‘Our court case will continue as we have only got half way on one of the issues, not all of the way on all of them,’ he says. ‘If we go all the way to the court it will set a precedent, and everyone will know where the boundaries are.’
ChemSec has also called for 22 endocrine disrupting chemicals to be included on the list of Substances of Very High Concern [SVHC], notably phthalates used as plasticisers. ‘So far, not one single substance has been placed on the SVHC candidate list,’ Lighthart says.
‘REACH was supposed to do this. Endocrine disruptors haven’t really been considered; they must not be neglected as they are in so many consumer products. Action is lacking, and we want to spearhead the action on endocrine disruptors in Europe.’