LEGAL FRAMEWORK FOR THE MANAGEMENT OF HAZARDOUS SUBSTANCES

Hazardous substances management is still controlled by a variety of legal provisions, under the responsibility of different enforcement authorities. To provide for the safe management of hazardous materials, a comprehensive hazardous substances control law is required to unify the regulatory framework, restrain or eliminate potential dangers to health and the environment, and provide the necessary authority for inspection, supervision and enforcement. In addition, a central authority must be established to deal in a comprehensive manner with the "cradle to grave" management of hazardous substances. The recently-completed contingency plan for the integrated organization and operation of all bodies taking part in hazardous substances accidents may serve as a model for the establishment of a central coordinating authority on hazardous substances.

Today, the Hazardous Substances Law of 1993 is the central legal tool for the management of hazardous substances in Israel. The law originated from the separation of existing authorities within the framework of the Pharmacists Ordinance and is based upon the government decision to transfer responsibility for hazardous substances from the Ministry of Health to the Ministry of the Environment, with the exception of medical drugs. The Hazardous Substances Law, with its attached listings of toxic substances and hazardous chemicals, provides the Ministry of the Environment with authority for more comprehensive management of hazardous substances, including licensing, regulation and supervision of various aspects of their production, use, handling, storage, marketing, import, export and transport. The law establishes a licensing requirement, in accordance with the Licensing of Businesses Law, for any premise engaged in the sale of hazardous substances and a permit requirement for any business dealing in poisons.

The law authorizes the Minister of the Environment to promulgate regulations on the classification of poisons and on the treatment, use, production, import, export, packaging, commerce, transfer, storage, maintenance and use of toxic substances.

Israel is expected to ratify the International Convention on the Control of Transboundary Movements of Hazardous Wastes and their Disposal (Basle Convention) in the very near future. In order to conform with the requirements of the convention, the Ministry of the Environment has recently completed draft regulations, under the Hazardous Substances Law, which deal with the import and export of hazardous wastes.

A major breakthrough occurred in 1990, when the Ministry of the Environment promulgated regulations pursuant to the licensing of Businesses Law and the Public Health Ordinance, which require industrial plants to dispose of hazardous wastes at the Ramat Hovav site no later than six months after production. Procedures for inspection and supervision, manner of packing, transport and disposal to Ramat Hovav, are specified in these regulations. Any disposal elsewhere, for purposes of recycling, reuse or other treatment, must be approved in advance by the Ministry of the Environment.

A recent amendment to the law identifies a hazardous substance as a material listed in the UN’s Recommendations on the Transport of Dangerous Goods. The amendment also broadens the definition of "industrial plant" to include any place, which is not a household, in which hazardous materials are dealt with, transported or stored.

A 1991 amendment to the Commodities and Services (Control) Order on pest control provides for an equal number of representatives from the Ministry of the Environment and Ministry of Health on the committee empowered to grant licenses for insecticides used in public health and domestic use. A recently-signed regulation under the Hazardous Substances Law provides the Ministry of the Environment with responsibility for the registration of insecticides for the protection of public health.

Licensing of Businesses Regulations on hazardous industrial plants were promulgated in 1993 and require owners of industrial plants in which hazardous substances or wastes are stored, sold, processed or produced to take all necessary measures to treat these materials according to the best available technology and to manufacturer instructions. Owners of industrial plants handling hazardous materials are required to prepare and maintain a file on the treatment of hazardous substances in case of accident. The regulations, which entered into force in February 1994, should go a long way toward improving safety and emergency response capabilities in industrial plants.

Used Oil Regulations, under the Abatement of Nuisances Law, the Licensing of Businesses Law and the Water Law came into effect in December 1993. The regulations call for the collection of used oil in specially-designated receptacles for eventual disposal either to the Ramat Hovav hazardous waste site or to a recycling facility.

The Safety of Workers Law covers the handling of harmful substances in the workplace, while the Public Health (Foods) Ordinance provides for the establishment of standards for maximum permissible levels of harmful substances pesticides, for example in food.

A 1991 amendment to the Regulations on Safety at Work (Industrial Hygiene and Public Health for Workers exposed to Asbestos, Talc and Crystalline Silicon Dioxide) reflects Israel’s increased concern with the improper use of asbestos and its byproducts. The amended regulations restrict the import of asbestos, set strict standards on worker exposure, broaden the prohibitions on the marketing of asbestos and

its compounds in various products, and prohibit textile products containing asbestos. The Ministries of the Environment and of Labor and Welfare are responsible for implementing the regulations.