The European Chemicals Agency (ECHA) is using its resources to purposefully block public access to information about potentially dangerous chemicals, a new report from green campaigners alleges.
The report from green groups EEB and ClientEarth, released ahead of a mid-term review of the agency's performance due from the Commission at the end of November, concludes that the agency is accepting incomplete dossiers from companies and not asking for them to be completed or corrected.
ECHA was set up in 2007 to enforce the EU's new REACH regulation, which obliges companies to test and register the chemicals they use. The campaign groups say that based on their registration audit conducted between December 2011 and March 2012, classification and labelling data was missing or incomplete for 28 out of the 40 ‘substances of very high concern' reviewed.
The report also alleges that the agency is “shrouded in a culture of secrecy – under pressure from the chemicals industry which claims business confidentiality as a means to prevent important information being released.”
In a statement, ECHA said it is “open to receiving constructive feedback and indeed shares some of the concerns highlighted in the report. However, the Agency refutes some of the comments made, in particular on independence and transparency of decision making.”
“ECHA makes every effort to act transparently and independently,” the statement added. “The Agency will offer a fuller and considered reflection in the coming week and looks forward to discussing it openly with EEB and ClientEarth.”
ECHA was one of the agencies criticised in a European Court of Auditors report released last week for not following policy and procedures on conflicts of interest. For instance, it found that conflict of interest statements from current staff were left inside envelopes in personnel files without being reviewed or assessed.