REACH is the Regulation for Registration, Evaluation, Authorisation and Restriction of Chemicals. It came into force on 1 June 2007 and replaced the former legislative framework on chemicals of the European Union (EU). REACH represents a step-change in environmental management by placing greater responsibility on industries such as ours to manage the risks that chemicals may pose to both health and the environment.
In principle, REACH applies to chemicals across all industries, and it’s revolutionising the way we, and others, manage chemicals throughout the value-chain.
The aims of REACH, as described by the Regulation and on the European Chemicals Agency website, are to:
REACH will affect everyone involved in the chemical supply chain, including manufacturers, importers, formulators and downstream users. The new regulations dictate that European Union manufacturers and importers of chemical substances, preparations or substances contained in articles intended for release will have to register those substances if the volume placed on the market exceeds 1 tonne per annum per legal entity.
Manufacturers and importers will need to register the substances. Failure to do so means that the substance is liable to immediate registration and must come off the market during the registration process. Failure to register means substance can no longer be placed on the market at all; hence the phrase “no data, no market”.
Downstream users (DUs), which effectively means customers and users of chemicals, will now be provided with Chemical Safety Reports (CSRs) to enable them to handle the products they buy as safely as possible. In order to receive these CSRs, the DUs must inform their suppliers how the products are used. Those DUs who wish to keep this information confidential will have to prepare their own CSR and send this directly to the European Chemicals Agency. Those companies classed as both suppliers and DUs will be required to pass information up and down the supply chain.
Suppliers from outside the European Union are not permitted to register substances and will only be able to export their chemical products if they have an European Union -based importer. Alternatively, they can appoint an “Only Representative” in the European Union to handle both registration and volume-tracking obligations.
European Union -based importers will be fully liable for compliance with the REACH regulations, although any substance imported into the EU at volumes less than 1 tonne per annum per legal entity do not have to be pre-registered or registered and aren’t, therefore, covered by REACH.
The new regulation has been carefully designed not to overlap or conflict with other chemical legislation, but replaces around 40 pieces of existing legislation. Existing legislation regulating other types of chemicals (e.g. cosmetics, pharmaceuticals and biocides) or related legislation (e.g. on health and safety of workers handling chemicals, product safety and construction products) continues to stand.