What is REACH? The EU’s New Directive on Chemicals

by Andy on March 19, 2009

REACH Chemicals

A couple months ago, we addressed ROHS (Restriction on Hazardous Substances) which primarily dealt with a EU restriction placed on products that contained one of six heavy metals that are considered hazardous to human health and the environment.

The European Union is now addressing another concern, hazardous chemicals and substances within the EU. This new directive (law) has been named REACH which stands for Registration, Evaluation, Authorization and Restriction of Chemicals.

So what is REACH?


REACH is a new European Union law that restricts the use of certain chemicals that may cause harm to human health or harm to the environment. The program tests new and existing chemicals to be able to provide safety information about a specific substance.

The legislation took seven years to pass and was entered in June of 2007. REACH will be implemented in phases over the next 11 years.

Who does REACH affect?


Anyone who manufactures or imports chemicals or chemical mixtures in to the European Union in the amount of one metric tonne or more per year must register the substances with the European Chemicals Agency.

What chemicals are included in REACH?


The chemicals included in REACH will expand as the implementation continues. All new chemicals must be tested before they can be marketed, and authorities are currently testing existing substances. The European Chemicals Agency expects 30,000 phase-in substances (existing chemicals) to be registered in the first 11 years of REACH; plus a number of non-phase-in chemicals (new substances).

Toxic Chemicals What’s the reasoning behind REACH?


As mentioned above, the main reason for the directive is to protect human health and the environment. With REACH, authorities will get a better understanding of the effects of commonly used chemicals; they will be able to provide detailed safety information about a particular chemical. According to the European Commission, in 1981 there were 101,106 chemicals used in the European Union and only 3,000 chemicals have been introduced since then. It is estimated that 1,500 substances may be considered “substances of very high concern,” i.e. CMRs (carcinogenic, mutagenic or toxic to reproduction), PBTs (persistent, bio-accumulative and toxic) and vPvBs (very persistent, very bio-accumulative).



Resources for additional information:


European Chemicals Agency

EUROPA – Portal Site for the European Union

REACH in brief – .pdf

Previous post:

Next post: