A joint proposal by the UK and Hungarian governments that would allow chemical companies to share the cost of testing to comply with the new REACH legislation has received the support of the European Union's Competitiveness Council.
However, while a majority of member states represented at the Council meeting supported the idea in principle, there was still considerable debate about how this would actually work in practice.
The European Commission's proposal for REACH (Registration, Evaluation and Authorisation of CHemicals), first put forward last year, will make industry responsible for producing data on the safety of chemicals and for assessing the risks related to their use. It had been proposed that companies could share the cost of conducting the studies needed to prove safety.
However, a statement put out by the Dutch EU presidency suggested that the views of the member states 'differed significantly on the subject of mandatory sharing of non-animal test data'.
"Further work is needed, especially on the subject of legal clarification" and on the possible extension of REACH to cover low volumes substances (between one and ten tonnes per year), according to a report on the Eur-Activ news service.
Other points of discussion included the practicalities of sharing costs of preparing and submitting dossiers to the European Chemicals Agency, the body set up to administer the legislation.
Under the 'one substance, one registration' proposal submitted by Hungary and the UK, only 'core' information would be required to register a chemical with the ECA. Companies would be able to share the costs of registration to the European chemicals agency, but no mandatory consortia would be needed.
The system is designed to avoid multiple registration of similar substances or products while at the same time preserving companies from sharing sensitive data protected by intellectual property with their competitors. It is also intended to ease some of the burden of testing from small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs).
Additional assessments of the REACH proposals are scheduled next year, after the presidency of the EU is handed over to Luxembourg.