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Is the Chemicals Inventory of European Chemicals Agency Trustworthy?

Written By Krishna on Friday, February 17, 2012 | 3:51 AM

The European Chemicals Agency (ECHA) has launched an online inventory giving hazard information on more than 100,000 substances as per a news report dated February 13, 2012. The information was collected under the classification, labelling and packaging (CLP) regulation. The CLP inventory includes 3 million individual notifications from manufacturers and importers on the hazard classifications of the substances they make or import. ECHA warns some companies have classified the same substances differently and that it has not checked the quality of the information available.

The chemicals agency hopes that the CLP inventory will enable companies to arrive at a single classification for each substance. It is going to launch a web platform to help them contact each other and harmonise their positions.

If one looks for Methyl tertiary-butyl ether (methyl t-butyl ether, MTBE) which is volatile, flammable, and colorless liquid that is immiscible with water in the inventory, it provides reason to doubt its trustworthiness. It has a minty odor. It has unpleasant taste and odor in water. MTBE is an organic compound and a gasoline additive. MTBE is controversial in USA because it is a potential human carcinogen at high doses as per United States Environmental Protection Agency (USEPA). Safe alternatives of MTBE are available as additives for gasoline such as ethanol.

MTBE is banned in the US states of California and New York. MTBE consumption, banned the chemical starting January 1, 2004, and as of September 2005, 25 states had signed legislation banning MTBE. The lack of MTBE liability protection is resulting in a switchover to the use of ethanol as a gasoline additive.

Experts opine that there are dozens of studies since 1970s that document acute and long-term toxicity, and there are long-term studies that show substantial harm, the new database provides minimal information. There are at least 10 studies showing that it is mutagenic, 5 studies state that it is carcinogenic, and this chemical metabolizes to formaldehyde in people and animals. There is substantial evidence that it is toxic, but none of this is reflected in the entry for MTBE in the ECHA inventory.
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