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EPA Announces Partnership with ECHA

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the European Chemicals Agency (ECHA) on Friday announced a partnership that will promote enhanced technical cooperation on chemical management activities.

ECHA is the agency that implements the European Union’s chemical management program known as REACH (Registration, Evaluation, Authorization, and Restriction of Chemicals).

The partnership was formalized through a statement of intent and was highlighted on Friday at the Transatlantic Economic Council (TEC) meeting in Washington, D.C. The TEC, established to advance transatlantic economic integration between the United States and the European Union, issued a statement stressing the importance for enhanced cooperation on chemicals. The statement of intent provides the first concrete result of this effort.

The statement puts in place a process for working together on a range of issues of mutual interest including toxicity testing, the hazard and risk assessment of chemicals, risk management tools, scientific collaboration, and information exchange.

One of the major anticipated areas of collaboration will be on the exchange of data and information. For example, the statement of intent will promote the exchange of non-confidential information on hazards, uses, and substance identification between ECHA and EPA, including data collected under REACH. The two agencies will also share criteria for managing confidential business information with the goal to increase the availability of chemical information to the public. The statement also enables the agencies to share information on approaches to more efficiently address chemicals of concern that are prioritized for regulatory action.

The partnership may signal a shift in U.S. chemical policy toward a more REACH-like system. A bill pending in the U.S. Senate to reform the decades old Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) has attempted to fundamentally change chemical regulation under the act by prohibiting the use of chemicals in commerce until they are determined to be safe for a specific use.  But the bill has drawn fierce opposition from the chemical industry, and faces an uphill battle when it is considered next year by a new, and very different congress.

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