REACH: Registration, Evaluation, Authorization and Restriction of Chemical Substances
REACH is a new European Community Regulation on chemicals and their safe use (EC 1907/2006). It deals with the Registration, Evaluation, Authorization and Restriction of Chemical substances. The new law entered into force on 1 June 2007.
The aim of REACH is to improve the protection of human health and the environment through the better and earlier identification of the intrinsic properties of chemical substances. At the same time, innovative capability and competitiveness of the EU chemicals industry should be enhanced. The benefits of the REACH system will come gradually, as more and more substances are phased into REACH.
The REACH Regulation gives greater responsibility to industry to manage the risks from chemicals and to provide safety information on the substances. Manufacturers and importers will be required to gather information on the properties of their chemical substances, which will allow their safe handling, and to register the information in a central database run by the European Chemicals Agency (ECHA) in Helsinki. The Agency will act as the central point in the REACH system: it will manage the databases necessary to operate the system, coordinate the in-depth evaluation of suspicious chemicals and run a public database in which consumers and professionals can find hazard information. The Regulation also calls for the progressive substitution of the most dangerous chemicals when suitable alternatives have been identified.
One of the main reasons for developing and adopting the REACH Regulation was that a large number of substances have been manufactured and placed on the market in Europe for many years, sometimes in very high amounts, and yet there is insufficient information on the hazards that they pose to human health and the environment. There is a need to fill these information gaps to ensure that industry is able to assess hazards and risks of the substances, and to identify and implement the risk management measures to protect humans and the environment.
It has been known and accepted since the drafting of REACH that the need to fill the data gaps would result in an increased use of laboratory animals for the next 10 years. At the same time, in order to minimize the number of animal tests, the REACH Regulation provides a number of possibilities to adapt the testing requirements and use existing data and alternative assessment approaches instead.
REACH provisions will be phased-in over 11 years. Companies can find explanations of REACH on the ECHA website, in particular in the guidance documents, and can contact national helpdesks.