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Hazardous Chemicals: Control and Regulation in the European Market

Herbert F. Bender, Philipp Eisenbarth Hardcover 409 pages Jan 2007 70.00 ISBN: 978-3-527-31541-3

Engage your prejudices for a moment, and imagine my excitement when I realised I had agreed to read an account of the European regulatory framework for hazardous chemicals written by two German Engineers.

This book aims to go from explaining the overall background of Regulations of the European Union Concerning Chemicals, through Toxicological Basics, Classification of Substances and Preparations, the Duties and Obligations of Producers when Placing Products on the Market, Notification of Substances, Occupational Safety and Health in the Workplace, Transportation of Dangerous Goods, to the REACH Directive.

If it covered these areas well, it might be useful to a Chemical Engineer looking to gain a good overall understanding of the stated remit, much of which falls well outside the undergraduate Chemical Engineering syllabus. It does not however cover the subject at all well. The English used is an idiosyncratic mixture of American spelling with quite a bit of untranslated German and Germlish, (especially in the naming of chemicals and other technical terms). There is also a fair amount of what appear to be straightforward typographical errors. This is not just nitpicking, they are bad enough to obscure the intended meaning in places.

Quite a few of the words in this book are unique to this publication. I would suggest that its most profitable use is therefore as a great source of “Googlewhacks”. Any given two of the book’s typos appear only once in “Google”- in the online version of this book. The translation and proofreading of this book was in summary very poor, but its misspellings are at least innovative. Can you guess (for example) what “genotoseic” was supposed to be?

More seriously, upon dipping slightly deeper into the book I also easily found quite a few factual errors in the less scientific sections. For example, in the first two pages: there are 27 EU Commissioners, not 25 as stated and the Commission has no role in police and criminal matters.

In the book, one of the authors says that it was written in September 2006, despite its 2007 publication date, and things have moved on considerably in the area it covers in the interim.

The more technical chapters seem generally accurate, but the typographical errors are bad enough to sometimes make it hard to understand what the author is trying to say.

In addition to this problem, much of the legislation in this area is issued as Directives rather than Regulations. Directives require transposition into national law. The national legislation does not always correspond directly with the directive, and countries do not even necessarily transpose directives by the due date. Some directives also set out minimum standards, which national legislation can exceed, depending on which part of the EU treaty they are issued under.

The book’s approach of dealing with the Directive might therefore be useful from a general Europe-wide perspective, but may not be entirely accurate for individual member states.

The UK-based Chemical Engineer wanting to understand this area might do better to start from the Environment Agency’s “Netregs” Site, at which is free, accurate, constantly updated and written in English or Welsh, (but not both at once). With respect to this book, it might be best to wait for the next edition, or better yet, its translation into English.