'Colossal task' ahead to create EU database of harmful chemicals in products

Out-Law News | 15 Oct 2019 | 11:07 am | 2 min. read

Suppliers face a huge data gathering exercise ahead of the launch of a new EU-wide database of products containing harmful substances, an expert has warned.

The European Chemicals Agency (ECHA) has published detailed information requirements (15-page / 736KB PDF) for companies which supply such products in the EU. The ECHA must establish a database of products containing potentially harmful substances, which will be known as the Substances of Concern In Products (SCIP) database, by 5 January 2020. Companies supplying those products will be required to submit "sufficient information" to the ECHA to allow for the safe use of those products by 5 January 2021.

Environmental law expert James Nierinck of Pinsent Masons, the law firm behind Out-Law, said: "ECHA's new SCIP database represents a colossal data gathering exercise in respect of articles containing substances of very high concern (SVHCs)".

James Nierinck

Associate

The breadth of the SCIP database should not be underestimated, both in terms of the number of businesses which will have to submit information to the ECHA and also the range of information required to be submitted.

"The breadth of the SCIP database should not be underestimated, both in terms of the number of businesses which will have to submit information to the ECHA and also the range of information required to be submitted. In the public consultation, very real concerns were raised by industry that the ECHA has overstepped its legislative mandate to collect information on SVHCs in articles and whether, in practice, the SCIP database is workable in light of complex international supply chains," he said.

The ECHA is required under the Waste Framework Directive to establish a SCIP database. It will consist of information about 'articles' supplied in the EU which contain substances in a concentration of above 0.1% w/w (weight for weight) which are on the Candidate List of SVHCs for authorisation under the Registration, Evaluation, Authorisation and Restriction of Chemicals (REACH) regime. This database will allow authorities to monitor the use of harmful substances in articles and improve waste treatment operations. It is also intended to, ultimately, decrease the generation of waste containing hazardous substances, by supporting the broader REACH regime.

For the purposes of EU chemicals law, 'articles' covers both individual items, and more complex items made up of a number of different individual items. Suppliers, who will be required to submit the information required to enable the ECHA to populate the SCIP database, include EU producers and assemblers, importers and distributors.

The detailed information document published by the ECHA envisages the submission of a variety of mandatory and optional information about each article. The mandatory information includes information that allows for the article to be identified; the name, concentration range and location of the potentially harmful substances present in that article; and information to allow for its safe use and proper management once it becomes waste.

Industry has raised concerns about the scope and ambitiousness of the project, most recently in response to the ECHA's consultation on its detailed information requirements. Respondents said that manual data input requirements would be "overwhelming, especially in the case of complex objects like aeroplanes", bearing in mind the complexity of supply chains and lack of availability of information, according to a summary of responses (26-page / 1.1MB PDF).

Other issues raised by the respondents included concerns that the information sought by the ECHA went beyond the legal requirements of the REACH and Waste Framework Directives; as well as the risk of exposure of commercially sensitive and confidential information.