Europe’s system of ‘socio-economic’ cost-benefit calculations for authorising hazardous chemicals is so biased in favour of industry only one has been refused, according to a new report.
ChemSec, a non-profit advocating for safer alternatives to toxic chemicals, warns that an exemptions system included in the REACH chemical registration process has “become the back door for companies in order to continue their use of hazardous chemicals.” It adds that only a single authorisation has ever been denied by the European Chemicals Agency (ECHA) during the twelve years of REACH.
‘Lost at SEA’, ChemSec’s new report, examines how the socio-economic analyses (SEAs) supposed to take account of health as well as economic factors are performed. “As part of the application process, the company is tasked with providing a socio-economic analysis. But since the burden of proof lies on the company itself to provide this information, it makes for a very one-sided analysis,” it notes. It adds: “The company needs to demonstrate that the societal benefits of continued use are greater than the risks, and according to the company applying for an authorisation, this is of course always the case.”
ChemSec says ‘soft values’ such as human health and protection of the environment do not fit into the equation and are mostly ignored. “The methodology has obvious limitations since human health and the environment in general are priceless. This is why it’s important to be very clear about what has been included in the analysis and what has been left out,” commented Frida Hök, senior policy adviser at ChemSec.
The group cites the example of shiny lipstick cases which, for decorative purposes, are often produced with the cancer-causing chemical chromium trioxide. The European Chemicals Agency (ECHA) “went on to recommend the continued use of it just so that society can continue to enjoy this decorative feature. This really begs the question of just how important it is that lipstick cases are shiny, and whether this really can be labelled as beneficial for society.”
- Lost at SEA, ChemSec, March 2019.