The Registration, Evaluation, Authorisation and Restriction of Chemicals (REACH), entered into force in the EU last June, is a regulation that has been touted as an approach to getting more environmental, health, and safety data by forcing chemical manufacturers to show that their products are safe before they can be registered. (MFW, May 9, 2008). In contrast, U.S. law—the Toxic Substances Control Act—generally allows products to be registered unless EPA can show that they are unsafe.
In a presentation at the Joint Services Environmental Management Conference on May 7, Shannon Cunniff, DoD's director of emerging contaminants policy office, REACH will create scores of new emerging contaminants. “For emerging contaminants, what the EU’s implication is, is that right now, we have this sort of small universe of known chemicals, bad actors,” where their environmental and public health impacts are known, she explained. The EU is shifting the paradigm by making the producers and importers of those chemicals and materials identify what those impacts are and include that information in a publicly accessible database, she added.
Over time, Cunniff said we’re going to have fewer unknown or non-evaluated chemicals, while the number of known hazardous chemicals might increase—or certainly the ones that have been newly classified as “hazardous." For emerging contaminants, "this means there are potentially all these new emerging contaminants coming down the pike" because the U.S. public will question why these chemicals are being regulated in Europe but not in this country, Cunniff explained. "Hello, what do you think is going to happen?"
Cunniff noted that the impact was not merely an issue about compliance. "Can DoD comply with this rule?” she asked rhetorically. “We actually think that we'll be able to work that issue fairly well," she said. However, she questioned what the indirect impacts would be on the broader DoD family. "Regulated materials may in fact become more difficult to obtain because we live in a global economy. And even if they can be obtained, they may be far more costly.”
Such difficulties include unexpected disruptions in the supply chain, cross-contamination issues, and a possible rise in the cost of some materials due to supply shifts, Cunniff noted. DoD is already facing cross-contamination issues with regard to lead and lead-free solders, she said. DoD may also need to increase its research into substitutes for use in weapon system development, according to Cunniff.
Source: Defense Environment Alert, Vol. 16, No. 10