The REACH Regulation has introduced new requirements for safety data sheets (SDS). The new requirements for the content of SDSs, based on Annex II to the REACH Regulation, which was revised in May, set out a much more prescriptive approach than before. Professional users of paints and inks, and anyone else who requests one, will see major changes to the SDS.
As well as having more information in the usual 16 sections, some SDSs will become Extended Safety Data Sheets (ESDS) and contain Exposure Scenario (ES) information. This ES information, which may be supplied as one or more ESs attached to the SDS, will include Risk Management Measures and Operating Conditions, to specify the safe use of the product. As a consequence, ESDSs may be much longer than previously. This does not mean that the hazard of the product has changed, only that the rules have changed.
BCF members have started to receive extended safety data sheets (ESDS) of over 100 pages. These comprise the new REACH Annex II style SDS along with attached exposure scenarios (ES) for the variety of end-uses for which the substance has been registered. The BCF is currently lobbying government in the UK and EU over these major problems.
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- Size of ESDSs
Given that a typical paint or ink will contain 20-50 substances, a number of these substances will be supplied with ESs for each end-use. REACH requires that these ESs be passed along the supply chain. If DUs follow the exact requirements of REACH, they will simply forward the ESs relevant to the end-uses to which they are supplying the product. This is likely to result in a customer receiving a document of between 100-500 pages!
Many coatings end-users are SMEs (e.g. vehicle refinish shops) or one-person operations (e.g. painters/decorators). They will not have the expertise or time to decipher these to extract the important information, and so will be more at risk than before – surely not an intention of REACH.
- Complexity of ESDSs
In the ESDSs seen so far, there seems to be no standardised format. Some are in the 4-section style and some in the 9-section style given in earlier draft guidance from ECHA and some with sections 2.1 and 2.2 reversed. In addition, some of these have the ES for each use as a separate chapter, whilst others have all uses together, but are split into the ES information section e.g. under “Control of Worker Exposure”, they have Use 1, Use 2 etc. This makes it virtually impossible for the DU to analyse the information in order to ensure that there is no conflict between the ESs for the substances and the SDS for the mixture.
- Extracting the information to make a product ESDS
To avoid the problems in 1 above, of having to pass on a large quantity of irrelevant information, it could be possible to produce an ES for the product, based on the most important, risk-determining substances in the product. This approach is acknowledged in draft ECHA guidance. This suffers from the same problem of complexity, as highlighted in 2 above, making it impossible to find the relevant information from the ESs received.
Once the above problems are sorted out (if possible), any products sold in different Member States will have to have the ESDS translated into the different languages of the countries involved. This is an incredibly expensive process. Due to the individual nature of the ESDS-producing process, each ESDS will have to be translated separately, making it a completely unfeasible proposition.
The answer to the above problems, as we see it, is for industry to standardise the format of ESDSs and ESs. It would be preferable for this to be done in a way to allow electronic data exchange up and down the supply chain. This could produce a system that might work. We are aware of two current projects that should help:
- ECHA guidance on the format of ESDSs and ESs
- The ESCom XML project for electronic data interchange
In order for our industry to be able to meet the requiremenmts of REACH, we need more time to allow these projects to be completed. We need to have either the timescales for the delivery of ESDSs delayed for say 12 months, or some assurance from enforcers that they will not take action until the relevant projects are complete and can be put into practice.