The Chemical Hazard and Alternatives Toolbox (ChemHAT.org) website has a summary of worldwide regulation schemes for chemical regulation. The summary is somewhat dated, as it refers to things that happened in 2012 but anticipates changes that have since taken place, in 2015 and 2016.
The European Union’s Registration, Evaluation, Authorisation and Restriction of Chemical substances (REACH) has the feature of requiring chemical manufacturers or importers to supply information about their products and prove that they are safe, instead of placing that burden on government agencies to examine each chemical involved and assess its safety. It also has an active component requiring substitution of other chemical or processes when dangerous chemicals are in use. China’s Ministry of Environment Protection has a recent chemical regulation program, enough like REACH that it is sometimes referred to as “China REACH.”
The Canadian Environment Protection Act (CEPA) follows a common pattern of requiring the government to categorize all chemicals in use. Chemicals that met some hazard criteria were subjected to a Chemicals Management Plan. Approximately 200 chemicals on a high priority list were to be examined using information supplied by manufacturers and imports.
The United States has been in a process of revising its Toxic Substances Control Act (TOSCA). The original act was perceived as toothless by some advocates. Its process for evaluating new substances lagged far behind manufacturers and the market. Legislation amending TOSCA has been passed and the Environmental Protection Agency has begun evaluating tens of thousands of chemicals in the US market seeking to identify and regulate the most hazardous first.
In the years 40 years between the first adoption of TOSCA in 1976 and its eventual revision, some US state governments have passed legislation regulating chemicals. California has a broad chemical regulatory law in place, and in 2012 over half the states were considering legislation regulating toxic chemicals.
Some efforts to assess and regulate chemical hazards take place outside governments. The World Health Organization and United Nations Environmental Program are both working to inform and promote chemical safety efforts. In addition, international conventions have met on such topics as hazardous waste, informed consent prior to use of hazardous chemicals, and persistent organic pollutants. In 2002 the World Summit on Sustainable Development affirmed a goal of eliminating the dangers of toxic chemicals by 2020.
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