SG Corner

This time last year the chemical industry was concerned about the imminent launch of the REACH process. The annual report for the year 2007, placed much emphasis on the forthcoming surge in activity related to this legislation. It was, however, a period of relative optimism about the future. Now, in 2009, with the downturn in world trade, companies have more serious issues, related to short-term results and longer-term survival.

Neil Carmichael sized for public website (1)

The financial crisis has many aspects which impinge on ECETOC, both directly and indirectly. Firstly, there is our day to day business. For a period, it was very hard to keep task forces on track as many companies had instituted travel bans. During this period, we received the resignations of a few companies which had found themselves forced to make emergency cost cuts. Hopefully, some may reverse that decision if circumstances permit.

Now however, it seems as though the most drastic action has passed and companies are again beginning to look at the longer term. This is reflected in the energy available for ECETOC’s activities and some slow moving task forces have started to pick up steam again while new proposals are being submitted to the Scientific Committee.

We have some very interesting new areas in development as I write: our task force on the identification of endocrine disruptors is finishing its report in preparation for an important workshop in June. Meanwhile other workshops are in preparation on subjects such as scientific standards in epidemiology and the use of mode of action in risk assessment.

Coming along sooner than any of these events, will be our Annual Technical Meeting (ATM) and Annual General Meeting (AGM). We have deliberately linked these together to encourage participation at both events. The ATM this year aims to encourage younger scientists from member companies to become more involved in ECETOC activities and it will be their ideas that will form the content of the programme, which focuses on the use of new technologies in risk assessment. The material is excitingly varied. A poster session, in the form of a competition, will follow directly on from the AGM and the following day there will be platform sessions and breakout groups. I hope, despite the difficult times, as many of you as possible will attend.

To bring this piece full circle to a more optimistic conclusion, I am happy to announce that a new company has joined ECETOC. Firmenich is the largest privately owned perfume and flavour business in the world and joins our other important members from this sector: Givaudan and IFF.

Another area where we hope to increase membership is the pharmaceutical sector. Already many of the biggest companies in this area are members and we hope to further increase participation. To that end we organised a scoping meeting here in Brussels with an emphasis on environmental issues confronting the pharmaceutical industry. At present there is an increasing emphasis on issues relating to the fate of pharmaceuticals in the environment and an industry approach to the technical issues could be facilitated by ECETOC. The participation from member and non-member companies confirmed that there is need for a science based initiative in this area.

So, there is plenty of activity for ECETOC at the moment. Hopefully the business climate will soon improve and ECETOC looks forward to continued support from all sectors of the chemical industry.

Neil Carmichael
ECETOC Secretary General