Agencys chemicals strategy making slow progress

The Environment Agency promised a multi-pronged approach when it announced its chemicals strategy in 2003.

Designed to bridge the gap between existing controls on chemicals and the REACH regime which comes into force this summer, the strategy included risk assessments, screening of effluent toxicity, a pollution reduction programme and a series of briefing notes, originally referred to as "position statements" (ENDS Report 345, pp 39-40 ).

Seven briefings have been published so far covering octylphenol and its ethoxylates; penta-, octa- and deca-BDE; perfluorooctane sulfonate (PFOS); fluoxetine; home and garden pesticides and biocides; triclosan; and human pharmaceuticals and their impacts on the aquatic environment.

The Agency is unlikely to meet its original target of publishing 50 by the end of 2007. "The reality is the resources needed to generate a briefing note and follow it up mean it is more resource-intensive that we originally envisaged," says policy advisor Jo Kennedy. "We need to pick our chemicals very carefully and concentrate on those of highest concern."

Other elements of the strategy have also evolved over time, says chemical policy manager Nick Cartwright. Most of the Agency’s energies have been focused on REACH negotiations and the coordinated chemical risk management programme (ENDS Report 380, pp 7-8 ). The latter, a joint initiative established with the Environment Department (DEFRA) in July 2005, has reviewed 32 substances and is looking at another 39. A risk reduction strategy has been developed for one substance, octylphenol.

Manufacturers have been asked to supply information to support these assessments, helping to prepare them for the rigours of REACH, says Mr Cartwright.

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