Environment Law Update: Hazardous substances 5

United Kingdom

United Kingdom

Managing chemicals

The EA has issued a consultation document seeking views on its chemicals management strategy. This covers chemicals which may directly impact on the environment or human health through environmental exposure. The strategy focuses on the chemical management activities of substances where the EA is able to take direct or indirect regulatory control. Comments on the document which contains objectives, activities and actions outlined up until 2007, must be received by 30 September 2002.
( (EA, June 2002)

Pathogens and toxins

The security of pathogens and toxins (exceptions to Dangerous Substances) Regulations 2002 (SI 2002 No 1281) came into force on 31 May 2002. These Regulations define what is not to be regarded as a dangerous substance under Part 7 of the Anti-Terrorism Crime, and Security Act 2001. They set out exceptions in respect of both pathogens and toxins.
( (SO, 4 May 2002)


DEFRA is seeking views on a second consultation paper containing draft Regulations, for the implementation into national legislation of a Directive on the deliberate release into the environment of genetically modified organisms (2001/18/EC). Covering GMOs of all types, including plants, animals and micro-organisms, it sets out a harmonised framework within the EU for commercial (Part C) releases, and releases for any other purpose including research (Part B) releases. It does not however cover GM novel foods and GM medicines. Whereas responsibility for decision-making on Part B applications lies at the Member State level, responsibility for decision making on Part C applications lies primarily at EU level. EU Member States must transpose the Directive by October 2002. Part VI of the Environmental Protection Act (EPA) 1990 provides the primary legislation for implementation in England. The new Regulations provide secondary legislation to supplement the EPA 1990 and the Directive. The first consultation paper on the general issues raised by the Directive was issued in autumn 2001. The draft Regulations are likely to be placed before Parliament in the autumn 2002. The deadline for comments on this consultation is 26 August 2002. j
( (DEFRA, May 2002)


The HSE has begun an awareness campaign to promote the proposed Duty to Manage asbestos in premises regulations due to be introduced in August 2002 (see article in this issue). A risk management pack aimed at those affected by the proposed regulation, covering the hazards of working with asbestos, changes in asbestos law, the steps needed to comply with the new duty and further advice and guidance, has also been produced. The Regulation, due to come into force in early 2004, will require duty holders to identify and manage the risk from asbestos-containing materials on their premises. A nationwide year-long programme of events will be delivered giving those with a duty under the new regulation an opportunity of gaining an early insight to their responsibilities.
( (HSE, June 2002)

Chemicals used offshore

Regulations introducing a statutory scheme for controlling the use and discharge of chemicals from offshore oil and gas facilities came into force on 15 May 2002. Under the Offshore Chemicals Regulations 2002 (SI 2002 No 1355) most chemicals used offshore will be placed into hazard categories and a permit will be required for all use and discharge. The overall aim is to encourage the use of less hazardous chemicals in offshore operations. The Regulations are made under the Pollution Prevention and Control Act 1999 and implement obligations under the Convention for the Protection of the Marine Environment of the North-East Atlantic (OSPAR).
( (SO, 14 May 2002)

European Union


The EU has ratified the Cartagena protocol on biosafety. This protocol is designed to protect biological diversity and human health by establishing an Advanced Informed Agreement (AIA) procedure which ensures countries are given the necessary information to make informed decisions on whether to import GMOs intended for introduction into the environment.
( (European Commission Press Release, 25 June 2002)


An amended proposal for a Directive amending Directive 83/477/EEC on the protection of workers from the risks related to exposure to asbestos at work has been issued by the Commission. The original proposal was amended after the European Parliament tabled significant amendments to it. These relate to the prevention of release of asbestos dust outside the workplace being given greater prominence and the need for providing more information to exposed workers on the risks. There are also several other amendments including notification requirements, use of individual respiratory protective equipment and some technical clarification.
( (COM(2002) 254, 16 May 2002)


The second Voluntary Commitment progress report from the European PVC industry has concluded that the industry has made good progress towards reducing its environmental impacts over the last year, with a total of six new projects launched during 2001. The Commitment was extended in October 2001 in response to stakeholder comments and requests from the European Commission. Changes included reducing the use of stabilisers, replacing lead and developing recycling schemes for the major PVC applications. The European Commission is still considering its strategy for the PVC sector, after five years of work, studies and extensive consultation. There is a possibility that this process could lead to controlling legislation. Among the achievements outlined were an end to the marketing of cadmium-based PVC stabilisers and the completion of several trial recycling schemes.
( (PVC Industry Association, April 2002)


An EU Decision prohibiting the marketing of PVC toys and childcare articles containing certain phthalates and intended to be placed in the mouth by children under three years of age has been renewed for a tenth period for a further three months. It will now be extended until 20 August 2002. A temporary prohibition was introduced in 1999 after disagreement between EU countries on whether there should be a permanent ban. Plans for a permanent ban looked to have been averted after the development of a validated method for testing phthalate migration by EU scientists in 2001. However, a long-term solution now seem to have been put on hold pending the results of an ongoing risk assessments of phthalates being carried out under the EU's existing substances review programme.
( (OJ L 133, 18 May 2002)

Heavy metals

The presence of heavy metals in waste is matter of ever-growing concern amongst regulatory authorities and the public throughout the EU. In response to this problem, the European Commission has published a survey of the sources of heavy metals found in waste from industrial products, and outlines the substitutes available for replacing them. The study was carried out by Danish consultants, and focussed on lead, cadmium, mercury and chromium in marketed products. These metals are currently being targeted by various pieces EU legislation with the aim of reducing their use.
( (European Commission, May 2002)

Radioactive sources

A proposal for a Directive on the Control of High Activity sealed Radioactive Sources has been published. It aims to reduce or eliminate the risks posed by radioactive sources used for a variety of purposes such as in industry, medicine and research. Sealed sources are generally of small size and are frequently found discarded in waste dumps and scrap yards leading to many radiation incidents and accidents. The controls would cover all sources emitting a dose over 1 millisievert per hour at a distance of 1 metre. Any operation involving a sealed radioactive source would need prior authorisation which would be granted only after the user has provided a guarantee of safe management and financial provision for container disposal.
( (COM(2002) 130, 18 March 2002)


Endocrine disruptors

There have been global concerns in recent years over the potential adverse effects that may result from exposure to chemicals with the potential to interfere with the endocrine system. However, a recent worldwide survey by the UN International Programme on Chemical Safety (IPCS) of these suspected chemicals has concluded that the evidence is weak. The survey focussed on two potential adverse impacts - sperm counts and endometriosis. However, the report did identify the need for further studies. The conclusions could influence the EU's strategy on endocrine disrupting chemicals which has produced to date a list of 12 chemicals for priority assessment for endocrine disrupting effects.
( (IPCS, May 2002)