Chemicals are arguably the main element and driving force of EU product regulation which, in turn, influences the marketing of products in the EU and worldwide. Although general chemical legislation (REACH or CLP) is well understood and implemented by many EU companies, there are some ongoing restrictions and authorization requirements which may be more difficult for companies to get to grips with. So, what are the latest developments in EU regulatory law, and how do they impact the cleaning products industry?
Ales Bartl is an Associate at McKenna Long & Aldridge LLP, specializing in EU product regulatory law, particularly chemicals legislation. He is also the leader of this year's Cleaning Products Europe pre-conference workshop. In his years of experience, which aspects of chemical legislation are the most difficult for companies to get to grips with and why?
"The biocidal sector has to accommodate the new EU Biocidal Products Regulation (BPR) which brings forward new elements, namely in connection with active substances, which are subject to transitional measures," Bartl explains, adding: "of course, the EU chemicals regulation brings significant administrative burden, in particular for SMEs." These regulations do however have a number of benefits: "On the other hand, having centralized rules for chemicals at EU level has simplified the simultaneous marketing of products in several EU Member States and also saves administrative resources and costs."
There has been discussion as to whether EU regulations are stringent enough, or conversely, act as too high a barrier to new product placement. Where does Bartl stand on the subject? "When compared to the US, China, Japan etc., EU legislation appears to be the most stringent and complex", Bartl argues, although he goes on to suggest that the strict nature of the regulations may be a necessity: "in my opinion, [they are] well balanced between the need for protection of health and the environment, and the need to maintain the competitiveness of the EU's industry." Similarly, Bartl is keen to state that any barriers to product placement due to health or environmental concerns must continue to be carefully assessed against socio-economic impacts.
It is worth noting that in this dynamic industry, regulations can be subject to change and amendment. To what extent are chemical regulations set to change in coming years? "The basic EU legal framework has already been established and I do not expect any structural change," argues Bartl. "Of course, the EU will continue to adapt its regulation to technical progress, for example with regard to nanomaterials. In addition, the EU will also continue to identify substances that are carcinogenic, reprotoxic or that have (or might have) endocrine disruption properties."
The new EU Biocidal Products Regulation is also set to impact the home care industry. Bartl explains: "a wide range of home care biocidal products contain active substances that are still under the EU review program and thus are still subject to national authorizations." He adds that some active substances will eventually not be approved, which will affect large industry segments. To combat this, producers should keep themselves up to date regarding the status of their active substances, and be ready for potential phase-outs. Bartl adds that they should also consider advocacy possibilities and legal remedies regarding negative decisions.