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16.3.5.  Prevention of industrial and chemical hazards in the EU

    National and European rules against pollution cannot in themselves prevent serious industrial accidents which are catastrophic for the environment, like those in Seveso in Italy in 1976 and Bhopal in India in 1984. For that reason, rules should be taken concerning controls on land-use planning when new installations are authorized and when urban development takes place around existing installations. Therefore, Directive 2012/18 aims at the prevention of major accidents which involve dangerous substances and the limitation of their consequences for man and the environment, with a view to ensuring high levels of protection throughout the European Union in a consistent and effective manner. It provides for: definition, by each establishment covered, of a major-accident prevention policy; submission, by each establishment where dangerous substances are present in large quantities, of safety reports demonstrating that the major accident hazards have been identified, that the design, construction, operation and maintenance of the installation are sufficiently safe and that the emergency plans have been drawn up; taking account, in land-use policies, of the objectives of preventing major accidents, limiting the consequences and improving the procedures for consulting and informing the public.

    Independently of accident hazards control, the framework Directive aims at an integrated pollution prevention and control (IPPC) [Directive 2010/75, see section 16.3]. Its across-the-board approach involves the various media (air, water, soil) by applying the principle of the best environmental option, in particular in order to avoid transferring pollution from one medium to another. It provides that the operators of certain polluting plants submit requests for operating permits to the competent authority in the Member States, with the issuing of a permit being conditional on compliance with basic obligations such as not to exceed emission limit values set by the Directive.

    A European pollutant emission register (EPER), introduced in 2003, contains data concerning emissions of 50 pollutants from large industrial installations across the EU. Both the public and industry may use EPER data to compare the environmental performance of individual facilities or industrial sectors in different countries and to monitor the progress made in meeting environment targets set in national and international agreements and protocols [Decision 2000/479].

    Major pollution of water, air and soil is caused by chemical products discharged in the form of by-products or industrial waste. The problems here are identifying the dangerous substances and monitoring their utilisation and disposal. This is why, under the Directive on the approximation of the laws relating to the classification, packaging and labelling of dangerous substances each Member State undertook to act as a representative of its EU partners when authorising the introduction of a new chemical product into the whole EU market [Regulation 1272/2008, last amended by Regulation 2017/776]. For that purpose, the producer or importer has to provide the State into whose market the product is first introduced with a "base set". That dossier is composed of a whole range of information on the physico-chemical properties of the new product concerned, its possible effects on health and the environment, the uses for which it is intended, the quantities produced, the proposed classification and labelling and a general evaluation of the dangers. That information is forwarded to the Commission, which sends it to each Member State and to the advisory Scientific Committee on Health and Environmental Risks (SCHER), which examines the toxicity and ecotoxicity of chemical compounds [Decision 2008/721]. Businesses are authorised to place on the market only "EC" labelled and, accordingly controlled, dangerous substances [Directive 96/56, see section 6.2.3].

    A Regulation concerns the Registration, Evaluation, Authorisation and Restriction of Chemicals (REACH) and establishes a European Chemicals Agency [Regulation 1907/2006, last amended by Regulation 2017/1000]. This Regulation aims to ensure a high level of protection of human health and the environment as well as the free movement of substances, on their own, in preparations and in articles, while enhancing competitiveness and innovation. The Regulation is based on the principle that it is for manufacturers, importers and downstream users to ensure that they manufacture, place on the market or use such substances that do not adversely affect human health or the environment. Its provisions are underpinned by the precautionary principle. These substances are listed in the European Chemical Substances Information System (ESIS). The European Chemicals Agency manages and in some cases carries out the technical, scientific and administrative aspects of this Regulation.

    The classification of a chemical substance as dangerous or harmless obviously necessitates sound laboratory tests. Accordingly, a Directive organises the implementation by the Member States of the principles of good laboratory practice and the verification of their applications for tests on chemical substances [Directive 2004/10].

    Export from and import into the EU of certain dangerous chemicals are governed by a Council Regulation implementing the Rotterdam Convention on the ''prior informed consent procedure'', which consists of granting the authorities of an importing country discretionary power as to whether to accept or refuse import of a substance which is prohibited or strictly regulated by the EU [Regulation 649/2012, last amended by Regulation 2015/2229].

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