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Product Stewardship

Encouraging a risk- and science-based approach for product safety

Product stewardship is about manufacturers and downstream users being engaged in reducing environmental, health, and safety impacts of their products throughout the whole life-span following a risk- and science-based approach. How it is done is multiple, ranging from substituting the most hazardous substances to good safety communications so products can be safely used in the manner intended. In our modern, open economy, chemicals require a thorough risk assessment before reaching the market. Communications on safe use happen throughout the supply chain via safety data sheets and product labels, and an efficient enforcement adds to products placed on the EU market respecting the high EU product standards.

essenscia is actively cooperating with regulators and other industry players in developing and implementing a risk-based regulatory framework for product safety. It is working hand-in-hand with authorities such as the European Chemicals Agency (ECHA) to put the ambitious legislation on hazard assessment & communication (CLP) and risk assessment & management (REACH) into practice. The sharing of experience and best practice between all industry players for a continuous improvement of implementation, especially towards SMEs, is happening through the essenscia VLARIP and WALRIP training programmes, recently being awarded with a CEFIC Responsible Care Award. It is a continuous effort and life-long engagement, for instance concerning the quality and updating of data in the REACH registration dossiers upon new scientific information and changing technical requirements.

Health and safety information is not only shared with direct customers through the CLP labels on products and safety data sheets. essenscia’s product groups Detic and Phytofar are engaged in various programmes to better inform consumers as well. The dissemination of REACH registration hazard data and risk analysis on the ECHA website further increases transparency, not only within the supply chain but also to the general public. essenscia also has a strong partnership with the Belgian Poison Centre, a crucial organisation supporting citizens in the event of a chemicals-related incident. The transition to a circular economy will require even more transparency, especially in relation to the presence of substances of concern in articles for adequate use and end-of-life management. essenscia is already actively involved in finding practical solutions to the challenge of providing the required information in an appropriate and efficient manner not creating administrative burdens nor jeopardising confidential business information.

Enforcement of the existing legislation on imported articles remains crucial not to import strictly regulated substances via finished articles, and thus exposing European consumers and the environment during use, waste and recycling stage. The RAPEX system (Rapid Alert Exchange System for dangerous non-food products) clearly demonstrates that more action is needed: of the products reported due to presence of restricted chemicals (25% of the products reported), products not respecting the hazardous chemicals limits specified in REACH represent a total of 605 cases reported of which almost 90% of them come from outside EU/EAA (2018 figures). Non-compliant toys (presence of restricted phthalates) and jewelry (nickel and cadmium content too high) make up the top 2, with most items imported from China. This data shows there is still clearly an enforcement need on imported articles – industry spends efforts in looking for alternatives while restricted chemicals keep being imported in finished articles exposing consumers and the environment.

Objective information in layman’s language is hard to find. essenscia therefore supports the GreenFacts Initiative to translate the available scientific information into Dutch. GreenFacts is a non-profit project which brings complex scientific consensus reports on health and the environment (from, for example, international organisations such as the WHO, FAO, IARC, UNEP, and the European Commission) within the reach of non-specialists. GreenFacts publishes clear, faithful and verified summaries of existing scientific reports on health, the environment and sustainable development. These are peer reviewed under the control of an independent Scientific Committee.

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