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Chemical Advocate Groups Object to Process Used to Identify Chemicals of Mutual Concern

Annex 3 (Chemicals of Mutual Concern) of the GLWQA requires USEPA and Environment Canada to evaluate chemicals for new or expanded regulation or other management actions in the Great Lakes region. In 2013, seven chemicals or chemical classes were nominated for evaluation in a first annual review cycle, and in 2014 four of these  were targeted for listing as chemicals of mutual concern (CMCs): mercury, PCBs, certain flame retardants, long chain and specific perfluorinated compounds, and short chain chlorinated paraffins. Additional chemicals will be evaluated in future years to determine whether they should be designated CMCs.

The process for reviewing nominated chemicals under Annex 3 continues to evolve. USEPA and Environment Canada established “binational considerations” to guide the process, but the guidelines are subject to interpretation and the various stakeholder groups involved in the chemical reviews have urged application of widely divergent meanings. Issues include how the “precautionary principle” should be applied and how the phrase “persistent and bioaccumulative” should be interpreted in the context of the GLWQA when considering which substances to review for potential listing.

NGO stakeholders have objected to certain aspects of the Annex 3 process. Among other things, the NGOs claim that the process is unbalanced, too slow, and improperly focused on risk and exposure. They have requested that USEPA and Environmental Canada adopt a much longer and more comprehensive list of CMCs. They also promote “hazard prevention, reduction and elimination” as the primary strategies for determining the actions to be taken in response to CMCs, rather than strategies that focus on risk management and exposure control.

Industry participation on this issue is essential to ensuring that the Annex 3 process is based on sound, peer-reviewed, and comprehensive data; incorporates traditional principles of risk and exposure; and is consistent with national chemical assessment programs in the US and Canada. Industry participation in this early stage of Annex 3 implementation is particularly critical as the process evolves through the first cycle of chemical reviews.