WACKER ensures that all our products, if used correctly, pose no risk to health or the environment. We continually update our product information and constantly revise our risk assessments to take account of new findings.
Only some 40% of WACKER products require material safety data sheets by law. Nevertheless, we provide data sheets for all our products to ensure they are used safely. In total, WACKER supplies over 40,000 material safety data sheets in up to 30 languages.
Our products are safe for people and the environment and meet stringent quality standards. Employees like Iris Frische make sure of that. She helps to purify active solutions for pharmaceuticals and takes samples for quality control.
In the period under review, WACKER recorded and assessed all the nanomaterials that we produce or use. Most of these materials are classified as nanostructured, i.e. materials whose internal structures are nanoscale (between 1 and 100 nanometers), but whose external dimensions are greater than the nano range. WACKER’s principal nanostructured products include pyrogenic silica (HDK®) – a powder used as a thickener, filler or flow enhancer. The physicochemical properties of the HDK® product group have been examined in detail and extensive toxicological, eco-toxicological and epidemiological data exists.
In 2008, WACKER partnered with the Technical University of Dresden on developing new methods to measure workplace nanoparticle concentrations and sizes. Starting in 2009, the new analytical techniques will be used for the first time in silica production at WACKER’s Nünchritz site (Germany).
REACH and GHS
EU-wide REACH legislation took effect in June 2007. It governs the registration, evaluation, authorization and restriction of chemicals within member states. REACH imposes new requirements on manufacturers, importers and users of chemical products. On the European market, all substances used or imported in annual quantities exceeding one metric ton must be registered and classified according to their properties over the next few years. The scope of evaluation work is determined by the quantity of material in circulation and the expected risks. Potentially high-risk substances are subject to regulatory approval.
We have been preparing for REACH requirements since the EU Commission issued its white paper on chemicals policy in 2001. REACH demands more information about the properties of chemical products, which, in turn, will lead to an increase in legally stipulated animal testing. WACKER makes every effort to avoid animal testing, limiting it to those tests required by the ECHA (European Chemicals Agency). We use recognized alternative methods such as in-vitro tests, and classify substances with the same modes of action into groups for testing.
In accordance with REACH deadlines, phase-in substances were preregistered in the second half of 2008. This chiefly included substances listed in the European Inventory of Existing Commercial Chemical Substances (EINECS) and substances that were manufactured at least once in the 15 years before REACH came into force, but were never placed on the market. We preregistered over 7,000 substances with the ECHA and so met the deadline for completing the first step of REACH implementation.
We also submitted the first batch of registration dossiers. This key REACH task will occupy us beyond the end of the final transition period in June 2018.
Published in late 2008, the European regulation on the Globally Harmonized System of Classification and Labeling of Chemicals (GHS) took effect at the start of 2009. With it, the EU Commission has introduced the new United Nations system of classifying and labeling chemicals to Europe.
For WACKER, this system switchover means that every product must be checked, reclassified and, where appropriate, relabeled. Within just a few years, we must reclassify tens of thousands of substances and mixtures, change all material safety data sheets and redesign hazardous substance labels to take account of new hazard symbols. Every substance in the EU must be reclassified by the end of 2010; the same goes for all mixtures by mid-2015.
GHS is the United Nations’ initiative for globally harmonizing the classification and labeling of chemicals. It is up to individual countries to decide whether to adopt the system, and, if so, when and how to go about it. This initially results in considerable bureaucratic and financial outlay for the chemical industry. WACKER began to implement the criteria of Japan’s GHS in 2007. To comply with New Zealand’s GHS requirements, we adapted material safety data sheets for this country in 2008. South Korea originally planned to introduce GHS in mid-2008, but postponed it by several years at short notice.