REACH Regulations: The Background

The EU REACH regulations came into force on 1st June 2007. REACH is a regulation which many companies in the European Union (EU) will have to comply with.

REACH stands for:
Registration – the necessity to submit a (technical) dossier on the properties of a substance.
Evaluation – of the dossier by the authorities.
Authorisation and restriction – on the use of a substance or
preparation of CHemicals.

REACH was introduced because many thousands of chemicals are used in the EU,  some in very large quantities, but the risks to human health and to the environment from many of these are not widely known. REACH intends to address this by making manufacturers and importers of chemicals responsible for producing data to define the  hazards and risks from around 30,000 substances that are manufactured or imported in  quantities of 1tonne or more per year in the EU.

The number of incidents of allergies, asthma, certain types of cancer, and re-productive disorders are on the increase in Europe and chemicals are considered as one possible cause.  If REACH succeeds in reducing chemical-related diseases by only 10%, the  health benefits are estimated at €50 billion over 30 years. 100,106 chemicals were reported to be on the market in 1981, the only time that chemicals have been listed in the EU. The chemicals sector is the third largest manufacturing industry in the EU, encompassing 31,000 companies and 1.9 million people.

Internationally, the EU is the leading chemicals producing area, its €580 billion representing 33% of global sales. For 99% of chemicals (by volume), information on properties, uses and risks is sketchy. There is no data for about 21% of them, and another 65% come with insufficient data. Only 3% have been fully tested The costs of registration, including the necessary testing, are estimated at €2.3 billion over the 11 years that that it will take to register all the substances covered by REACH.

The total costs, including those to downstream users, are estimated at €2.8 billion to €5.2 billion, depending on the extent to which registration costs will increase prices of  chemicals and the costs of substituting chemicals that will be withdrawn.