IHS Chemical Week


HCF key gathering for chemicals safety professionals

9:38 AM MDT | June 14, 2013 | By GEERT DANCET

I am pleased to be able to participate, again this year, in the annual Helsinki Chemicals Forum (HCF). HCF brings together a multitude of representatives from across the globe ranging from authorities and industry associations to nongovernmental organizations (NGOs). With speakers from the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), UN Environment Programme, Canada, China, and the United States, we can sense how the commitment to achieving our goal of safer chemicals management is a global effort. Academic, public interest NGOs, and industry representatives will also be taking the floor and thereby underlining that our common quest relies on collaborative partnerships of all involved. Although experts regularly gather for technical meetings that advance our knowledge on these crucial topics, it is HCF that provides a platform for a policy debate that enjoys high visibility and impact.

The speakers in this year’s event, particularly on the European side, feature the European Commission; the European Chemicals Agency (ECHA); Cefic, as a major industry association and stakeholder in our joint task of implementing the European chemicals safety legislation as laid down in the Registration, Evaluation, Authorisation, and Restriction of of Chemicals (Reach) act; classification, labelling, and packaging; and now the Biocidal Products Regulation; as well as the European Food Safety Agency (EFSA), who are involved as key speakers and moderators. The chair of the ECHA management board will be moderating a panel in her capacity of heading the Swedish competent authority and a senior advisor from the Danish Ministry of Environment will be participating in one of the discussion panels.

The range of topics covered in this year’s forum is also very extensive, and the headings of all five panel discussions indicate that the actors in the fields of regulating, managing, and advocating the safe use of chemicals have moved to a stage at which this forum can address some of the most challenging aspects of our work. This indicates that the groundwork, nationally as well as on the international stage, has by now been made over the last decades since the Millennium Development Goals were defined, resulting in a sound foundation on which we can now make progress in a sure-footed manner. In Europe, we have shown that Reach works. The United Nations and OECD have been instrumental in promoting global progress. Industry is more health and safety conscious and has taken considerable steps in inventorying its portfolio with an agenda of health, safety, and environment in mind. NGOs have also pushed and contributed a third party’s view. It is important to acknowledge that this has entailed a significant effort and is an impressive achievement.

As the executive director of ECHA, it is important for me to highlight that this forum gives our agency a clear channel and means to contribute to achieving our strategic objectives for the coming years—in particular, our goal on keeping abreast with scientific progress. We have found the scientific content and level of debate that we can expect from the five panels so relevant that we have included attendance of this event into our staff training program. Many ECHA staff members will therefore be attending the conference with this objective in mind, so if you are attending the event, please network and enter into dialogue with them. I hope it will be of equal use to you and look forward to the conference.

Geert Dancet is the executive director of the European Chemicals Agency. The Helsinki Chemicals Forum takes place 23–24 June 2013 at Helsinki. See the program and find out more at www.helsinkicf.eu.

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