By Courtney E. Howard
BRUSSELS, Belgium - The European Union’s (EU’s) Registration, Evaluation, Authorization, and Restriction of Chemicals (REACH) law, put into effect on June 1, makes industry manufacturers, importers, and systems developers responsible for the identification, management, and substitution of chemical substances.
REACH puts responsibility in the hands of industry firms to manage the risks from chemicals and to provide safety information on the substances. That is, manufacturers and importers are required to gather information on the properties of chemical substances used in their systems, and register that information in a central database. The regulation also calls for the progressive substitution of the most dangerous chemicals when suitable alternatives have been identified.
European Chemicals Agency personnel oversee the databases, in-depth evaluations of suspicious chemicals, and a public database in which consumers and professionals can find hazard information. REACH will cover roughly 30,000 chemical substances, as well as products containing the substances, such as electronics and textiles, say EU officials.
“With the entry into force of REACH, the EU is providing itself with the most progressive chemicals legislation in the world,” environment commissioner Stavros Dimas says. “Properly setting up the European Chemicals Agency is the next big step to make sure that REACH will work in practice. Much work remains to be done to protect our health and the environment from the dangers chemicals can pose.”
The new European Chemicals Agency (ECHA) opened in Helsinki on June 1 and is expected to become fully operational by June 1, 2008, when companies begin submitting pre-registration and registration dossiers online. The Agency, responsible for managing the implementation of the new requirements, will provide guidance documents, help desks, and other tools and information relating to REACH via its website at http://echa.europa.eu. The website, in addition to furnishing information on how to comply with the REACH legislation, provides an interface for the online registration of substances.
“The Chemicals Agency will play a key role in the effective implementation of REACH, helping to deliver improved health, and environmental conditions while at the same time maintaining competitiveness and encouraging innovation,” commission vice president Günter Verheugen explains.
REACH requires, over a period of 11 years, the registration of 30,000 chemical substances currently in use. The regulation places the onus on industry players to generate the required data and identify the measures necessary to mitigate risks.
For more information about REACH, visit http://ec.europa.eu/enterprise/reach/index_en.htm or http://ec.europa.eu/environment/chemicals/reach/reach_intro.htm.