The European Chemicals Agency ECHA has opened its doors for business in Helsinki. The agency faces a first major challenge in collecting data from companies making chemicals in the EU – or importing them – by an initial December 1 deadline for industry. Brussels said it expects as many as 200,000 pre-registration files to be submitted.
Laura Degallaix, with the European Consumer’s Bureau, wants to encourage the public then to use the information being collected. She said: “The consumer has the right to ask the European agency what are the most dangerous substances contained in consumer articles. That might mean toys or paints, doors, floor covering and so on. We advise consumers to use that right.” The agency is to co-ordinate the chemicals’ registration, evaluation and authorisation processes under the new EU rules known as REACH. But Erwin Annys at the European Chemical Industry Council in Brussels, said things are not starting smoothly: “The agency promised us that we could use for pre-registration a system that should allow us to do multiple pre-registrations in one time. For the time being this is not available. We have to do it substance by substance, and this is taking too much time to make it even physically possible to do this in the time frame of the six months we have for that.” The regulatory agency’s budget over the next 15 years is expected to average €90 million per year, largely financed from fees paid by industry. REACH aims to ensure that companies study their own products in detail, and through deeper scrutiny improve consumer safety.