The European Commission’s Chemicals Strategy for Sustainability (CSS) could fundamentally change the Registration, Evaluation, Authorisation and Restriction of Chemicals (REACH) Regulation by extending the application of the generic approach to risk management to professional uses and new hazard classes. This extension of the generic approach to cover not only consumers but also professional workers, including those in the construction sector, will have a significant impact.

The generic approach to risk management aims to regulate chemicals only on the basis of their inherent harmful properties. The place and method of use of the chemicals are not taken into consideration. Any risk management measures that would arise from a risk assessment are also not considered.

Generically, only the classification of the chemical is taken into account, such as carcinogens, mutagens, and reprotoxic (CMR), or other hazard classes currently under discussion, including: endocrine disrupting (ED); persistent, bioaccumulative, toxic (PBT); very persistent and very bioaccumulative (vPvB); persistent, mobile and toxic (PMT); very persistent, very mobile (vPvM); and specific target organ toxicity single exposure (STOT SE) and repeat exposure (STOT RE) respiratory sensitizers.

Professional workers are not consumers and should therefore not be subject to the same restrictions or prohibitions. In fact, professional users have more characteristics in common with industrial users than with consumers. Professional workers are subject to a comprehensive set of occupational health and safety rules (established in Occupational Safety and Health (OSH) legislation) specifically aimed at protecting them from the risks posed by the chemical substances they handle.

Multiple Concerns

The commission’s view is that although many products are used more frequently by, for example, construction professionals than they are by private consumers, these workers are not subject to the same risk management. Accordingly, the generic approach should be applied to members of the construction sector and other professional users.

This viewpoint is questionable because it would lead to direct chemical bans without taking into account the risk assessment. The current legal framework already provides an appropriate set of tools. As the recently introduced restriction on diisocyanates and many other regulatory measures have shown, the existing instruments of chemicals legislation are already being successfully applied in the area of professional uses. Any lack of compliance with existing OSH requirements should not be a reason to automatically compare professionals with consumers. Instead, actions should be undertaken to improve the safety of professional users by strengthening the European health and safety legislation.

It is also important to note that professional workers perform tasks that are important for society and the circular economy, and they need chemical products to perform those tasks. For example, building insulation using appropriate sealants and adhesives improve the overall performance of the windows, doors, and insulation of a building, significantly reducing energy losses. Adhesives also enable wooden structural elements for innovative construction technologies, saving energy and reducing CO2 emissions through the use of renewable and recyclable materials.

The application of the generic approach would adversely affect the availability of substances and products. For example, certain reactive resins that are used in the construction sector might be restricted or prohibited by the generic approach. Yet many adhesives and sealants, including those used in the construction sector, are enablers of the Green Deal and the Circular Economy Action Plan. The extension of the generic approach to risk management could therefore, in addition, have an adverse effect on downstream users.

Impact on the Adhesives and Sealants Industry

In 2020, the adhesives and sealants industry was estimated to contribute €17 billion (approximately $18.7 billion) to the EU economy, representing 2% of the European chemical industry’s turnover. The European adhesive and sealant industry employs 45,000 people. The industry also made a considerable investment of €470 million (~ $517.3 million) in research and innovation to support its focus on sustainable development.

FEICA’s position regarding the extension of the generic approach to risk management is available via

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