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Report concludes REACH has positive effect on chemical safety

19 February 2013

According to a European Commission report published on February 6, REACH regulations have made chemical use considerably safer. Five years after their entry into force there is more information about chemical substances on the market, and better targeted risk-management measures ensuring risks from substances registered under REACH have significantly decreased. 

The report says the trend is expected to continue, as industry is continuously working towards finding substitutes for the most hazardous chemicals. Companies have now registered 30,601 files with the European Chemicals Agency (ECHA) describing the uses and properties of 7,884 chemical substances manufactured or placed on the market. 

The Commission has concluded that REACH functions well and delivers on all objectives that at present can be assessed. Some needs for adjustment have been identified, but no major changes are needed in the regulations.

A Eurobarometer survey, also published in early February, found that 61% of Europeans think that chemicals are now safer than 10 years ago. 

The administration costs of REACH have had an impact on SMEs, but the Commission has said it will soon reduce registration fees for smaller companies. 

The report says the industry recognises the positive economic effects for business and that by further harmonising the internal market, REACH has been a key driver for growth and competitiveness for the chemical industry. 

To further promote the competitiveness of the European chemical industry, 

European Commission vice-president Antonio Tajani, Commissioner for industry, said: “This report shows that REACH works. Companies are facing their responsibilities and as a result we have better data about the chemicals they produce and place on the market. 
“However, there is still work to be done to ensure a high level of protection of human health and the environment. We are committed to maintaining a safe and sustainable chemical industry in Europe. REACH, the most comprehensive chemicals legislation in the world, can help us achieve this goal and ease the free circulation of chemicals in the internal market. With REACH, our chemical industry can become a world leader in innovation."

As well as reducing the financial and administrative burden on SMEs other recommendations made by the report to improve REACH implementation include improving the quality of registration dossiers and enhancing the use of safety data sheets as a central risk-management tool.

It concludes that there are no major overlaps with other EU legislation, and states that the already considerable efforts to develop alternative methods to animal testing will continue, with €330 million in funds available to fund research in this area.

The next deadline under REACH is 31 May this year, by which time industry must register all phase-in substances manufactured or imported in the EU at or above 100 tonnes a year.

With regard to nanomaterials, the Commission will make an impact assessment of relevant regulatory options, in particular possible amendments of REACH Annexes, to ensure further clarity on how nanomaterials are addressed and safety demonstrated in registration dossiers. If appropriate, the Commission will come forward with a draft implementing act by December 2013.

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