European Union's counterterror measures questioned by chemical, biological experts

Industry representatives have said that new European Union counter-terrorist measures could increase administrative burdens on the chemical sector while duplicating security procedures.

Chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear security would be strengthened, the Council of the European Union said, through the adoption of its new action policy. The risk of high risk materials being used as weapons would be reduced, it says, by committing to an all-hazard policy package.

The CBRN Action Plan involves a host of measures meant to be placed into practice over the next three years by member states. Many of the plan's recommendations are currently common practice in the chemical industry, including the development and implementation of security plans, identification of good practice at high risk facilities, and up-to-date lists of high-risk chemical agents.

The plan lists 124 actions to be taken, however, and some of them have rankled industry specialists.

Concerns have been voiced by the European Chemical Industry Council and the European Association of Chemical Distributors, who worry that the new regulations and procedures will duplicate practices already in place.

One of the plan's actions calls on member states of the EU and the European Commission to encourage industry to replace, when possible, high-risk chemicals with suitable lower-risk alternatives. CEFIC and FECC have said that it is already in those companies' best interests to reduce high-risk chemicals and that additional research and development of low risk alternatives is not needed.

The Registration, Evaluation, Authorization and Restriction of Chemical Substances legislation, which was entered into law in 2007, already regulates the use of such dangerous chemicals in Europe and it is not clear how the new regulations will mesh with those already in place.

The new plan also calls for investigation into the risks associated with trading chemicals over the internet, a study into supply chain security gaps and the availability of high risk chemicals to the general public.