South Africa’s Department of Environmental Affairs (DEA) is considering drafting a chemicals management Bill. It will include provisions for industrial chemicals registration and risk assessment. Speaking at a chemicals management and land remediation summit in Pretoria last October, environment affairs minister Edna Molewa said there are “policy and legislative gaps that need to be addressed”. These include the:
- implementation of UN multilateral environmental agreements (MEAs) to which it is a party – such as the Stockholm and Rotterdam Conventions; and
- “fragmentation” of government responsibility across many departments –some with overlapping mandates.
Another problem, Ms Molewa said, is that there is “currently no legal authority ensuring that rigorous risk assessment of industrial chemicals is done as a prerequisite to chemicals registration before they are introduced into the South African market. “For example, in reviewing chemicals imported through the prior informed procedure of the Rotterdam Convention over the past four years, our officials have discovered that South Africa is effectively being used as a dumping site for hazardous chemicals banned in the very same countries that manufacture and export them …” According to a concept document presented to the summit by DEA officials, none of South Africa’s existing laws give it the power to ban particular chemicals. There is also no legal framework for the registration of chemicals, or for companies to conduct substance risk assessments or report information on their uses. The fragmentation of the legal framework, says the document, means that a substance that has dual purposes – for example,an industrial and agricultural chemical – can be imported for one purpose, but used for another.
The Bill will aim to:
- “domesticate” multilateral chemicals agreements into national law;
- address the registration and risk assessment of industrial chemicals; and
- “formalise” national coordinating efforts such as the Multi-Stakeholder Committee on Chemicals Management (MCCM).
The officials said the aim is to present a draft Bill to Parliament by the end of this year. Shortly before the summit, the DEA published a request for information from companies which produce, use, import or export chemicals that it lists in two annexes to theGovernment Gazette. Most of these substances are controlled under one of the UN chemicals-related conventions. The information will be used to update the country’s inventory, the National Chemicals Profile. In its December newsletter, the Chemical and Allied Industries’ Association (CAIA) says “over-regulation cannot be supported”. However, it adds that it supports the “domestication of multilateral environmental agreements”. In addition, the CAIA wants to see a “higher-level committee” than the MCCM, which was set up to implement international chemicals treaties, “to ensure that the perceived impacts of chemicals on human health and the environment are adequately investigated and addressed through increased compliance monitoring and enforcement”. Meanwhile, writing in the CAIA’s latest Responsible Care progress report, executive director Deidré Penfold says the Department of Labour and the Department of Health are drafting revisions to the:
- Hazardous Chemical Substances Regulations (Occupational Health and Safety Act); and
- Hazardous Substances Act.
These will incorporate aspects of the UN Globally Harmonised System (GHS) for chemicals classification and labelling. Ms Penfold expected drafts to be published in theGovernment Gazetteby the end of 2015. South Africa already legislates aspects of the UN Globally Harmonised System (GHS) for chemicals classification and labelling through its environmental impact assessment Regulations. Further Information is available at:
Chemical Watch, 7 January 2016 ;http://chemicalwatch.com ;