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Global Chemical Regulations: 2024 Will Be a Consequential Year

Jan. 15, 2024
Significant policy and regulatory developments in the United States and globally could be impacted by upcoming election cycles.

The New Year is upon us, and 2024 is shaping up to be consequential on a global scale. 

First, let’s look at U.S. policy and regulatory developments. In this election year, competing priorities will dominate U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) actions. The agency will seek to complete as many actions as possible while tempering its expectations to avoid any significant pre-election missteps. While there is no consensus on whether the Biden administration’s commitment to policy shifts in chemical management has elicited desirable results, reasonable people will agree it has tried to fulfill campaign promises in a hyperpolarized political climate. Similarly, reasonable people will disagree on whether the administration’s chemicals-management policies have achieved enhanced environmental and human health protection, greater environmental equity and a clearer sense of what scientific integrity looks like. These are tough issues to navigate under the best of circumstances, but the devil is in the details, and for stakeholders laser-focused on the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) and global chemical governance issues, much work remains to be done.

The Republicans’ razor-thin (and shrinking) margin in the U.S. House of Representatives will continue to invite a high degree of EPA oversight, and the Republican Party’s operational dysfunction will continue to be an impediment to getting anything done. Core TSCA implementation issues unresolved in 2023, including “reasonably foreseen,” “to the extent necessary,” “systematic review,” and “best available science,” could, according to critics of the EPA’s record over the past two years, continue to evolve in unpredictable and incoherent ways. The possibility of a change in the White House only fuels continued disarray.

The Federal Insecticide, Fungicide and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA) and the Endangered Species Act in the agricultural and biocidal area have seen similar policy shifts and uncertainties but perhaps to less dramatic effect. How the 2024 general election will influence EPA policy choices is anyone’s guess.

How the 2024 general election will influence EPA policy choices is anyone’s guess.

Global Chemical Initiatives in the New Year

The European Union’s (EU) commitment to net-zero global warming emissions by 2050 advances, but its own election cycle invites significant uncertainty on the policy trajectory in 2024. The European Commission’s 2024 Work Program suggests ecodesign requirements will progress, as will waste requirements for electrical and electronic equipment. More fundamental policy initiatives pertinent to Registration, Evaluation, Authorization and Restriction of Chemicals (REACH) revisions are expected to be deferred until after the 2024 EU elections. 

The EU’s proposed per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) regulation has captivated the world’s attention as, if implemented as proposed, it will be exceedingly far-reaching. Further progress will be made in 2024 as the EU and United Kingdom (UK) continue to manage Brexit consequences and the evolution of chemical governance programs globally picks up steam, making up for lost time due to the pandemic. Federal elections in the fall in Canada also invite an element of added uncertainty.

The UK Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) will continue to build the UK REACH program, diverging from EU REACH. UK REACH compliance checks may pick up, given the maturation of the program and need for additional guidance on areas to improve. PFAS are listed as a priority in the UK REACH 2023–2025 Work Programs. Expect to see DEFRA developments in this regard in 2024.

In Asia, evolving chemical inventory, reporting and recordkeeping will focus on industrial chemicals and cosmetics regulation. In China, this evolution extends to food contact materials. The trajectory in India is less certain, with general elections scheduled for May 2024. The rollout of India’s Chemicals (Management and Safety) Rules has been delayed repeatedly, and the election cycle will continue that pattern.

Important changes to K-REACH in South Korea will affect companies that do business there, including new rules starting January 2024 to changes in ownership or company succession. These and other regulatory measures are all important, as is the United Nations Globally Harmonized System of Classification and Labeling of Chemicals (GHS) implementation in countries in this region.

The Central and South American chemical regulatory environment continues to evolve, albeit relatively inconsistently and unpredictably. Most of these countries do not possess formal chemical inventories and generally have not adopted GHS for their respective safety data sheet (SDS) programs. Many continue to make progress in developing regulations, however. This will continue in the new year. Other Central and South American countries are developing regulatory programs that are expected to have a significant impact on entities doing business in the region, and stakeholders will need to pay much closer attention to chemical management developments in this region.

To read more of our 2024 Forecast, see www.lawbc.com/wp-content/uploads/Forecast2024.pdf for a concise summary of global chemical initiatives to watch this year.

About the Author

Lynn L. Bergeson, Compliance Advisor columnist

LYNN L. BERGESON is managing director of Bergeson & Campbell, P.C., a Washington, D.C.-based law firm that concentrates on conventional, biobased, and nanoscale chemical industry issues. She served as chair of the American Bar Association Section of Environment, Energy, and Resources (2005-2006). The views expressed herein are solely those of the author. This column is not intended to provide, nor should be construed as, legal advice.