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Environmental risk assessment of chemicals

Case study –  Environment Agency

environmental_risk_assessment_case_study_headerFor a number of years, the Environment Agency has acted as the competent authority for environmental risk assessment of chemicals carried out under the EU Existing Substances Regulation (this has now been superseded by the REACH Regulation). In addition, the Environment Agency also has a responsibility to assess the risks to the environment under the UK Coordinated Risk Management Programme.

In order to carry out its obligations, the Environment Agency has needed expert advice on the risks posed by chemicals to the environment.

BRE has been contracted to carry out a large number of environmental risk assessments on behalf of the Environment Agency. These have included many substances that are considered to be ‘difficult’ to assess.

  • Metals.
  • Substances with persistent, bioaccumulative and toxic (PBT) properties.
  • Highly volatile substances.
  • Substances with very low water solubilities.
  • Substances of complex or undefined composition.

The work has included carrying out basic screening assessments to identify what further information may be needed to properly assess the risks, refining the assessments and recommending further information or testing that would reduce the uncertainties in the risk assessment.

Reliable and realistic risk assessment is important to both regulators and industry alike as it ensures that the chemicals in use do not harm the environment, while at the same time it ensures that the use of chemicals is not unnecessarily regulated. Environmental risk assessment of chemicals is becoming increasingly more important with the introduction of the REACH Regulation, whereby producers and users of chemicals have to demonstrate that their chemicals pose a low risk to the environment.