The content of this week’s SEAC meeting, where authorisation of regulated chemicals are discussed, all boils down to the question: Which businesses do we want to support in Europe – old-fashioned industry unwilling to phase-out carcinogens, or start-ups innovating safer products?
During the meeting the SEAC committee will produce a final recommendation for the Commission in the Gerhardi application, who seeks authorisation to use chromates in plating.
During a meeting in November 2016, where producers of alternatives met with the applicant and the SEAC committee, the applicant asked for a 12-year authorisation period. The alternative providers on the other hand, claims alternatives are available within a year or two and that a 4-year authorisation would give plenty of time for the applicant to substitute. In contrast, by giving the applicant 12 years, or even seven, the alternative providers would be disfavoured and their profits at risk.
“ChemSec believe it’s important to not disfavour these alternative providers. They represent a lot of innovating power towards safer chemistry which could be lost if they are hurt financially”, says Sonja Haider, ChemSec Policy Advisor who act on the SEAC committee as an observer.
“In addition, granting authorisation when alternatives are available is clearly against the REACH legal text.”
A part of this authorisation request concerns the right to chromate plastics, which is used as a finish when making car door handles look shiny for example. Using an alternative may result in slight variations of the colour, or give a different haptic impression.
“Is a shiny finish so important it justifies exposing workers to a chemical that is well-known to cause cancer in significant ratios? This is also something that the SEAC committee needs to take into account. Decorative uses should not count as important for society in the socio-economic analysis”, says ChemSec Policy Advisor Frida Hök.