The European Chemicals Agency (ECHA) has added 14 substances to the list of "very high concern" chemicals to undergo special health and safety scrutiny under the bloc's chemical regulation REACH.
The addition brings the number of substances under scrutiny to 29.
The identification of a substance of very high concern and its inclusion on the list is the first step in the new EU authorisation procedure. The chemicals agency underlines that companies may have immediate legal obligations following the inclusion of the substances on the list.
These obligations are linked to the listed substances and products that contain them, and mainly concern the duty of suppliers, producers and importers to provide their customers and consumers with information, notify the ECHA or provide safety data.
Industry suspects further widening of the list
The current list of 29 substances is still a long way away from the 270-odd substances identified for priority substitution on a 'REACH SIN List', drafted jointly by public interest groups and NGOs.
However, an industry representative told EurActiv that he expects the list to grow to some 150 substances by the end of 2010 as the authorities "seek to find a balance somewhere between the first official list and the list put forward by NGOs".
Since March 2009, an informal group of six member states - Austria, Denmark, France, Germany, Sweden and the Netherlands - has been working on a pre-scanning method and grouping of substances to help individual member states to pick the most relevant substances for inclusion on the list, thus speeding up to process of extending it.
Nanomaterials not covered by REACH
Further regulatory headaches may lie ahead for a number of chemical companies, as new Environment Commissioner-designate Janez Potočnik said during his hearing in the European Parliament this week (13 January) that "it is becoming obvious that REACH is not enough" to cover nanomaterials, suggesting that the EU would take action to remedy regulatory gaps on the matter.