Helsinki Chemicals Forum Becoming a Think-Tank for Industry Movers and Shakers
Article Feb 17, 2014
Rolling out a chemical regulation that affects organizations around the world is a delicate and difficult process. The upcoming Helsinki Chemicals Forum (HCF) has been one of the more dynamic events designed to encourage the involvement and seek the participation of industry leaders and regulatory bodies from many different nations. What started as a conference focused on issues concerning the European Chemicals Agency (ECHA) REACH regulation to control hazardous materials imported into Europe has expanded into an in-depth dialogue about safety and sustainability.
Now, HCF provides a forum to examine not only the REACH standard within Europe but also how it fits within the global community of new standards that many countries are implementing to better manage chemical safety and to reduce exposure to toxic substances.
Launched in 2007, REACH (which stands for registration, evaluation, authorization and restriction of chemicals) is intended to protect consumers and the environment from hazardous chemicals. It shifts the responsibility of safety from governments to companies–including all producers and importers of chemicals into Europe–which are now required to demonstrate the safety of their products. The objective is ultimately to phase out or ban the most hazardous chemicals from Europe.
According to HCF’s Secretary General Hannu Vornamo, “Sooner or later all national regulatory bodies should implement a requirement similar to the REACH regulation. The growing awareness of the need for greater chemical safety will push for this change.”
With regard to REACH and its affect in North America, “Initially, the U.S. lobbied heavily against REACH because of the belief that it would create trade barriers to Europe,” Vornamo recalls. “Now, the chemical industry has become much more global. In Europe we are slowly rolling out the standard so that the impact is spread over time, making implementation and compliance easier for organizations to absorb.”
Vornamo points out that “This type of policy is global in scope, whether it is required or voluntary. We’re all seeing the difficulties of implementing a voluntary standard with the transition in the U.S. from TSCA to the Chemical Safety Improvement Act – not an easy task! Europe led the way in this instance, but chemical management is an international discussion in which all countries are and should be involved since chemical safety is a global initiative.”
The upcoming sixth annual Helsinki Chemicals Forum strives to focus on the most important timely topics, particularly with regard to global trends. Speakers are invited from international authorities, industry leaders, NGOs, academics, and the media to engage in an open dialogue on key issues of global relevance regarding chemicals management and the control of chemical safety, particularly with regard to the regulatory agency perspective.
HCF will be held at the Helsinki Exhibition and Convention Centre from 22-23 May 2014. HCF will consist of four panels covering the following topics: EU and US chemicals regulations; chemicals used in fracking; recent development in chemicals management around the world; and, raising the baseline on sound chemicals management. The program this year will include representatives of international chemical industry organizations and authorities from CEFIC, CIEL, the European Commission, FDA, OECD, ECHA, Environment Canada, and the American Chemistry Council.
Preceding the conference will be the ninth annual Stakeholders' Day on 21 May 2014. This event offers participants the chance to hear and discuss the latest news and updates from ECHA, European industry associations, and NGOs. The annual event covers the REACH and CLP regulations and participants can also attend one-to-one sessions with ECHA staff about specific topics.
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