The European Council and the European Parliament adopted a European Chemicals Legislation, entitled REACH (Registration, Evaluation, Authorisation and Restriction of Chemicals), which came into force on the 1st of June 2007.
REACH addresses the use and production of chemical substances, and their potential impacts on both the environment and human health. REACH is the most comprehensive and stringent European chemical legislation to date. Although the legislation has come into force, due to the vast amount of chemicals used in Europe it will not be fully implemented until the end of the decade.
REACH requires all companies producing chemical substances in the European Union or importing them in quantities over one tonne per year to register these substances with the European Chemicals Agency (ECHA).
The main steps and processes of REACH are:
REACH requires manufacturers and importers of chemical substances (larger than or equal to 1 tonne/year) to obtain information on the physicochemical, health and environmental properties of their substances and use it to determine how these substances can be used safely. Each manufacturer and importer must submit a registration dossier documenting the data and assessments to ECHA.
Read more about the REACH - Registration
ECHA will perform dossier evaluation to assess testing proposals made by the registrant or to check that the registration dossiers comply with the requirements. ECHA will also co-ordinate substance evaluation, which will be conducted by the Member States to investigate more in depth chemicals of concern.
Authorisation is required for the prioritised substances of very high concern (SVHC) that are included in Annex XIV. Companies applying for authorisation will have to demonstrate that risks associated with uses of these substances are adequately controlled or that the socio-economic benefits from their use outweigh the risks.
Applicants will also have to investigate the possibility of substituting these substances with safer alternatives or technologies, and prepare substitution plans, if appropriate.
Read more about the Reach - Authorisation
The European Union can impose restrictions and prohibit or set conditions for the manufacture, placing on the market or use of certain dangerous substances or group of substances when unacceptable risks to humans or the environment have been identified.
Read more about the REACH - Enforcement
Classification and labelling inventory
A classification and labelling inventory will be developed from notifications submitted by industry on substances (including those below 1 tonne/year if classified as dangerous) and from information on classification and labelling included in registration dossiers.
Communication in the supply chain
Suppliers of substances must pass on information on the health, safety and environmental properties and safe use of their chemicals to their downstream users (via a Safety Data Sheet or other means). Downstream users may only use substances classified as dangerous if they apply risk management measures identified on the basis of exposure scenarios for their use.