At the end of May, the final registration deadline was passed for REACH, Europe’s chemicals regulations. This deadline affected companies that manufacture or import substances in low volumes, between one and 100 tonnes a year. REACH now regulates all chemicals on the EU market, and the gathering of data on substances on the European market is now complete, resulting in what the European Chemicals Agency (ECHA) says is the most comprehensive chemicals database in the world.
Bjorn Hansen, the new head executive director of ECHA, which oversees the implementation of REACH, spoke at last week’s Helsinki Chemicals Forum, and outlined his vision for the organization’s next five years.
Hansen characterized REACH as a driver of economic competitiveness for the EU. He said that by ensuring the same protections for human health and the environment along with a clear legal framework for controlling substances on the market, REACH provides EU businesses with an advantage over their non-EU counterparts.
He also looked at the results of the recently conducted REACH Review, which indicated that improvements can and will be made – such as improvements in protections, efficiencies in training, tools for information gathering and safety data sheets.
Looking ahead, REACH has a role to play in reducing uncertainties for business while improving environmental sustainability. For example, he said, consider the introduction of a new substance. Most new chemicals are initially produced in small quantities, and if successful the production quantities will grow. Under REACH, this means the data pack on the substance will grow as well. If problems arise with the chemical, they will more likely be detected and addressed when production quantities are small, thus creating less of a business problem down the road.
Uncertainty is bad for business, he said, adding that the focus in the coming five years will be to work together with businesses to create a better knowledge base on chemicals.
Reported by Leslie Burt, Chemical Matters