Experts fear the government will reduce the regulatory requirements for key chemicals. This could be the first step towards a weaker post Brexit safety system for potentially toxic substances.
Last week’s proposalsThe new rules for the post-Brexit national chemical regulator were laid out on a government website without much fanfare. These proposals would alter the way substances of high concern, including potential toxins and carcinogens and chemicals that remain for a long period in the environment, are handled.
These chemicals are formally identified under EU law and publically listed on a candidate listing. Authorities then analyse them and decide whether to ban or allow them to be used in certain circumstances. When dealing with products containing candidate list chemicals, companies must inform regulators and supply chains.
Companies will no longer be required to provide information on substances of high concern under the governments’ proposals. However, they will be permitted to do this on a voluntary basis. The candidate list will only include chemicals that are likely to be transferred to an authorisation list. This means that fewer notifiable chemicals can be analysed.
Zoe Avison is a policy analyst at Green Alliance thinktank. She stated that relying on voluntary data submissions from chemical companies will almost certainly result in hazardous substances falling through cracks. The UK could have made smart arrangements to lower costs and protect public health. The government has backed out of this situation. This is a worrying sign for the future UK chemical regulation.
Guardian was informed by experts that they were concerned that the government’s move would weaken protections against harmful chemicals and allow potentially dangerous chemicals to slip through the net.
Michael Warhurst, executive Director of Chem Trust, is a charity that campaigns against harmful chemicals. He said: It seems like the government is putting in unnecessary layers information requirements before taking any action. This will lead to regulatory inaction regarding a variety of harmful substances. This will allow British consumers and the environment to be exposed to more harmful chemicals than they are in the EU and second-rate systems for regulating chemicals after Brexit.
Jamie Page, of Cancer Prevention and Education Society added: We are worried that protections British citizens once enjoyed are being reduced. The further the UK departs from the EU Reach, the more dangerous it will be. [registration, evaluation, authorisation and restriction of chemicals]system and database, the more likely people will be exposed to potentially harmful chemicals.
The government’s proposals won’t be subject to public scrutiny and will not need to be voted on by parliament. These alterations can be made by ministers without the need for discussion under post-Brexit law arrangements.
A spokesperson for Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs stated: We are committed maintaining an effective regulatory structure for the management and controlling of chemicals, which safeguards people’s health and can respond to new risks. We have published our interim approach for the candidate list in UK Reach. This approach aims at ensuring that we have one, consistent approach to nominating substances for our candidate list.