REACH Regulations for Chemicals

The European Commission published in February 2001 its “White Paper on the Strategy for a Future Chemicals Policy”. The White Paper proposed a new system of chemicals control – the REACH system, Registration, Evaluation and Authorisation of Chemicals.

This move was in response to concerns in the 1990s from legislators and industry alike that chemicals safety legislation required a fundamental overhaul to address issues such as a falling number of notifications of new substances, a slow risk assessment programme and the failure to involve downstream users sufficiently to obtain a comprehensive risk assessment and exposure picture. The view also emerged among authorities that responsibility for demonstrating the safe use of chemical substances ought to move from government to industry to ensure that substances and articles manufactured, placed on the market or used, do not adversely affect human health or the environment.

Legislation and impacts

The Commission started its implementation work immediately after the publication of the Commission’s proposal for a REACH Regulation in October 2003. The Council Common Position on REACH Regulation was published at the end of June 2006. The second reading in the European Parliament took place in December 2006 and  the regulation formally adopted by the Council of Environment Ministers on 18th December 2006.

The regulations extend the scope for collective sharing of information by registrants under the principle of “One Substance, One Registration” (OSOR). In addition, the regulations introduce the authorisation of certain chemicals of very high concern, for example carcinogens, mutagens and reprotoxins class 1 and 2.

The majority of the REACH regulations apply from 1st June 2007. There will be three phases for the registration depending on the volume band. Substances with a production/import volume of 1,000 t/a or more (and those classified as carcinogenic, mutagenic or reprotoxic) will have to be registered within 3 years. Lower production volume substances will have to be registered thereafter. The whole registration process for existing substances will be completed by 2018.

Most petroleum substances fall into the 1,000 tonnes pa volume band and therefore each legal entity that imports or uses these chemicals will have to submit a registration during the first phase, i.e before end December 2010.

Implementation of REACH is managed by the European Chemical Agency, located in Helsinki, but with a strong involvement of the Member States in the evaluation and authorisation process. The development of guidance and tools for both industry and authorities is in progress in the form of REACH Implementation Projects (RIPs) under the auspices of the Commission.

Further information is available on the European Commission website here.

For information on how REACH affects petroleum products, click here to be redirected to the CONCAWE website.