The EU is currently reviewing the criteria for persistent, bioaccumulalive and toxic (PBT) chemicals which will be used in the new EU chemicals legislation REACH. The European Commission had recently, after ongoing discussions, proposed a version of the criteria which leaves a lot to be desired.
The REACH legislation mandated a review of the existing criteria to determine which chemicals are PBT or very Persistent and very Bioaccumulative (vPvB). The review of the criteria is supposed to take into account existing and new scientific experience in how PBT and vPvB chemicals can be identified, and to ensure a high level of protection for human health and the environment. For instance, recent scientific publications have noted that some chemicals seem to accumulate differently in air breathing organisms than in aquatic organisms, but the existing criteria do not cover this aspect. In discussions about the review of the criteria, the suggestions for improvements by Member States and public interest organisations have been making little head way.
As a result, several public interest organisations, including the Health and Environment Alliance have written to the Commissioners Dimas and Verheugen to criticise the Commission’s proposal, because it relies on a too narrow set of laboratory tests. The letter notes that the proposal does not allow all relevant information to be considered, and therefore cannot address the problem of increasing contamination of people and wildlife with persistent, bio accumulative and toxic chemicals. The organisations call on the Commissioners to reconsider the Commission’s position.
Early next year the Commission is expected to present its final version for a vote by Member States.
Read WWF’s article on this issue: Better criteria needed to define PBT chemicals
Written on 15 December 2008.