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Upcoming Helsinki Chemicals Forum Focuses on Critical Chemicals Safety Regulations

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Stricter chemical rules and more product-based regulations have been increasing at an estimated 30 percent a year, according to several industry analysts.  Regulations such as REACH (Registration, Evaluation, Authorisation and Restriction of Chemicals) and CLP (Classification, Labelling and Packaging) seek to clarify those chemical hazards and strive to reduce the associated risks.  These regulations in turn are driving increased needs for supply-chain transparency and corporate risk-management programs.  


European Commission DG Environment's Bjorn Hansen participated in a panel on EU and US Chemicals Regulations during HCF 2014.

The upcoming seventh annual Helsinki Chemicals Forum (HCF) will explore critical issues surrounding these regulations. HCF is a one of the leading international discussion forums for chemicals safety and sound chemicals management.  The forum examines the most important current chemical safety and management 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.  

This year, a particular emphasis is given to REACH and the looming CLP deadlines.  REACH, like any regulation, must evolve to address changing scientific knowledge and techniques, since advances in science and technology often create new risks.  Nanotechnology, for instance, is breaking ground in numerous scientific disciplines, but is not easy to qualify or quantify – sparking debates and dialogue concerning how to register materials that fall in this category.  CLP, on the other hand, leverages the United Nation’s Globally Harmonized System (GHS) to ensure consistency of chemical labels and safety data sheets (SDS) worldwide.  Right now, there are several deadlines for manufacturers and importers that require transition to the new chemical labels and SDS formats.


Geert Dancet, ECHA's Executive Director, opened the Helsinki Chemicals Forum 2014 with a keynote presentation on Making the Most Out of Knowledge and Science for Safer Chemicals.

The European Chemicals Agency (ECHA) has been leading the evolution of chemicals safety and use since 2007 when the first draft of the REACH and CLP regulations were released. REACH establishes procedures for collecting and assessing information on the properties and hazards of substances.  It requires manufacturers and importers to register the substances they use in their products when those substances have the potential to pose risks to health.  The goal is to restrict such hazardous materials within the European Union (EU), but also to promote the use of less toxic solutions. 

Beyond the science challenges are the business issues that surround global import and export agreements.  The emerging Trans-Atlantic Free-Trade Agreement (TAFTA) or TTIP, is one such proposed trade agreement.  Noted authorities will debate on the subject during HCF.  TAFTA is not without controversy since will conflict with numerous chemical regulations if implemented.  This particular panel during HCF should be a must-attend for any executive with a role in chemicals manufacturing.

HCF 2015 will be held from 28-29 May, 2015 at the Messukeskus Helsinki Convention Centre in Helsinki.   The packed two day event addresses such critical issues as the challenges of addressing the GHS deadlines; the future for global chemicals risk management; improving supply chain communications for chemicals in products; best practices in chemical alternatives assessment; and, green chemistry and engineering challenges.   Speakers include top officials at ECHA and other international authorities and chemical industry organizations, such as the EU’s European Commission, CIEL, OECD, Environment Canada and the American Chemistry Council as well as numerous other agencies from around the world.  

New this year is a workshop on “The Business Case for Sound Chemicals Management” directly following the conference and hosted by Chemical Watch.  The workshop is designed for senior business managers and offers a unique opportunity to learn first-hand from companies engaged in managing chemical risks in their products.  The panel of speakers ranges from global retailer VF Corporation’s Vice President of Global Responsible Sourcing to Hewlett Packard’s Environmental Manager.  Attendees must register for both HCF and the workshop to participate.

Preceding the conference will be the tenth annual Stakeholders' Day on 27 May 2015. 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.  There are always more questions than can be answered after every session; this year the meeting should be particularly lively in light of the looming CLP deadlines.