The Journal of Transdisciplinary Environmental Studies' (TES)
Volume 4, Number 3, 2005

ISSN 1602-2297

Classification and Risk Assessment of Chemicals:
The Case of DEHP in the Light of REACH

Jette Rank
Department of Environment, Technology and Social Studies,
Roskilde University, Denmark

Abstract: The process of classification of the toxic properties of hazardous chemicals is not straightforward.
Even when the documentation is clear and comprehensive it can take decades before the authorities decide to take action. Moreover, a classification is always on trial because new scientific knowledge can lead to reclassification. It is not easy to understand the politics of the regulatory game because issues other than scientific results set the agenda. Further, the economic consequences for the chemical industry and society are always taken into consideration before risk reduction strategies
for hazardous chemicals are decided and implemented. The present paper describes the case of the plasticizer DEHP, a chemical that is still not fully regulated in accordance with its hazardous properties and its classification as a reproductive toxicant. DEHP has been downgraded with regard to carcinogenicity but is now classified as toxic for reproduction and development. This new classification
worries the producers and is still on trial, because it brings DEHP on the list of chemicals that are carcinogenic, mutagenic or toxic for reproduction (CMR substances), which is important in the light of the future implementation of REACH, the new EU law on registration, evaluation and authorisation of chemicals. CMR substances will need an authorization for their specific use, and therefore the classification of DEHP as toxic for reproduction is extremely important for producers as well as users because it probably will demand a stricter regulation than seen hitherto.

Keywords: Classification, risk reduction, carcinogenic, peroxisome proliferation, reproductive toxicity, REACH, regulation of chemicals

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