China and India have begun work on beefing up legislation on the production and marketing of chemicals. The scale of these legislative reforms is immense. The emerging countries (the BRIICS group, standing for Brazil, Russia, India, Indonesia, China and South Africa) now represent 28% of world chemical production, compared to 13% ten years ago. The health cost for their populations is immense. According to World Health Organisation researchers, mortality attributable to dangerous chemicals stands at about 4.9 million deaths per year worldwide. Both China and India have undergone huge increases in the numbers of cases of cancer, with 1.5 million deaths per year in the former and 635,000 in the latter.

The planned reforms in India refer explicitly to the Community’s REACH. They seek to make it mandatory to register substances, to restrict or ban the use of the most dangerous substances and to create a national inventory to be managed by a public authority. Public consultation is underway, and the new legislation should be adopted by the end of 2012 or early in 2013.

In China, Decree 591 was adopted in December 2011. It seeks to harmonise and improve a series of prior rules. It rests upon principles comparable to those in REACH in terms of the registration and evaluation of substances. It is still probably less ambitious in the area of restrictions and prohibitions. The decree applies to both Chinese producers and foreign businesses importing their products on to the Chinese market.

CEFIC, which brings together the major European businesses in the chemical sector, has spoken out against the planned reform in India, warning the Indian authorities against what it terms the ‘excessive costs’ of REACH. This attitude is shared by the employers’ organisations in the chemical industry in the United States, which have even threatened India with the possibility of an appeal before the World Trade Organisation.