In 2007, over 40 pieces of European chemicals legislation were replaced by a single law, REACH. The aim was to improve human health and the environment, encourage innovation and keep the EU’s chemical industry competitive.
These goals were ambitious, and the law was groundbreaking – placing the burden of proof on individual companies to ensure that their chemicals can be safely used. All the evidence suggests that the new law is making a difference and that, collectively, industry, Member States, stakeholders, the European Commission and ECHA, are making Europe safer.
So far, over 15 000 chemicals have been registered with ECHA, each registration providing data on the effects of that chemical on human health and the environment. That data is available on ECHA’s website. Over 170 of those substances have been identified as substances of very high concern, and 31 of them now require prior authorisation before they can be used. The use of 64 chemicals has been restricted.
ECHA’s Executive Director, Geert Dancet says, “We can collectively look back with pride on the last 10 years. This is a massive achievement in protecting human health and the environment. But let’s not leave it there. Let’s look with the European Commission at what can be done even better. This is important work which affects every single one of us. We’ve made an excellent start, but we need to maintain the level of ambition that was set by the Member States over a decade ago.“
There remains one further registration deadline for companies making and importing chemicals to register them – on 31 May 2018. This deadline is for the least hazardous substances and those produced or imported in the smallest volumes. We expect information to come in on up to 25 000 more chemicals. So, a lot of companies, both big and small, are working on this right now.
REACH does not end in 2018, but after this deadline, we will have a better picture of the chemicals used in Europe. Regulatory work will continue with companies keeping their registrations up to date, dossiers and substances being evaluated and the risks of the most dangerous chemicals continuing to be managed.
ECHA will also carry on working hard to meet the UN’s World Summit on Sustainable Development (WSSD) for 2020, to ensure that chemicals are used and produced in ways that minimise significant adverse effects on human health and the environment.