R.E.A.C.H-ing for Higher Standards in Global Chemical Management

Matias LöyttyniemiThe challenges of defining and managing chemicals in today’s interconnected global environment are more difficult than ever before. Despite the publication of the TSCA (Toxic Chemical Substances Act) regulation in the United States, the recent political changes are casting doubt on how or what will be changed, despite the pressing need for change.

Regardless of what is happening in the US concerning chemical regulations, the European Commission (EC) has been intent on removing and reducing toxic substances from industrial products that are manufactured in and imported into Europe. To this end, the European Chemicals Agency (ECHA) was formed to draft and manage a new regulation for monitoring this process: REACH (Registration, Evaluation, Authorisation and Restriction of Chemicals).

REACH establishes procedures for collecting and assessing information on chemical substance hazards and risks

It requires companies to register the substances they manufacture in, or import into, Europe above one tonne a year. The goal is to gather information on chemicals within the European Union (EU) in order to manage chemical risks in a meaningful way, as well as to promote the gradual substitution of the most toxic substances.

What makes the regulation different from most is that REACH is not a voluntary standard. It places the burden of proof on industry to demonstrate that a substance is safe.

Rather than acting as a watchdog and demonstrating that a substance is unsafe, ECHA is evaluating the chemical data that the manufacturer provides. As a result, there is now a much better understanding of chemical substances, with the most dangerous substances being replaced with safer alternatives.

One of the greatest hurdles REACH is addressing is the cost to comply. It is not only expensive to reconfigure a product or substitute a less toxic substance, it is also expensive and time-consuming to provide the information to REACH. Historically, businesses have been more focused on profits than product safety so any additional cost that impacts their bottom line is met with resistance.

The REACH regulation and the challenges and issues surrounding chemicals management will be addressed at the upcoming Helsinki Chemicals Forum (HCF), the leading international discussion forum for chemicals safety and sound chemicals management.

HCF not only provides a forum to examine the REACH standard within Europe, but also how it fits within the global community of new standards that many countries are implementing to better manage chemical safety and reduce exposure to toxic substances.

HCF 2017 will be held from 8-9 June, 2017 at the Messukeskus Helsinki Convention Centre in Helsinki, Finland. The two-day event addresses opportunities and challenges for chemicals regulation, with panels covering the United Nation’s 2020 goals on chemicals management, sustainable development, chemical assessments, chemical risk and much more. An international collection of speakers from regulatory bodies, industry associations and NGOs will provide insights, with speakers from ECHA, the US EPA, Environment Canada, CEFIC, OECD and many more.

For more information about HCF, visit http://www.helsinkicf.eu.

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