REACH is the European Community Regulation on chemicals and their safe use (EC 1907/2006). It deals with the Registration, Evaluation, Authorisation and Restriction of Chemical substances. The law entered into force on 1 June 2007.
The aim of REACH is to improve the protection of human health and the environment through the better and earlier identification of the intrinsic properties of chemical substances. At the same time, REACH aims to enhance innovation and competitiveness of the EU chemicals industry. The benefits of the REACH system will come gradually, as more and more substances are phased into REACH.
The REACH Regulation places greater responsibility on industry to manage the risks from chemicals and to provide safety information on the substances. Manufacturers and importers are required to gather information on the properties of their chemical substances, which will allow their safe handling, and to register the information in a central database run by the European Chemicals Agency (ECHA) in Helsinki. The Agency acts as the central point in the REACH system: it manages the databases necessary to operate the system, co-ordinates the in-depth evaluation of suspicious chemicals and is building up a public database in which consumers and professionals can find hazard information.
The Regulation also calls for the progressive substitution of the most dangerous chemicals when suitable alternatives have been identified. One of the main reasons for developing and adopting the REACH Regulation was that a large number of substances have been manufactured and placed on the market in Europe for many years, sometimes in very high amounts, and yet there is insufficient information on the hazards that they pose to human health and the environment. There is a need to fill these information gaps to ensure that industry is able to assess hazards and risks of the substances, and to identify and implement the risk management measures to protect humans and the environment.
It has been known and accepted since the drafting of REACH that the need to fill the data gaps would result in an increased use of laboratory animals for the next 10 years. At the same time, in order to minimise the number of animal tests, the REACH Regulation provides a number of possibilities to adapt the testing requirements and use existing data and alternative assessment approaches instead.
REACH provisions are being phased-in over 11 years. Companies can find explanations of REACH on the ECHA website, in particular in the guidance documents, and can contact national helpdesks. In the UK, this is the responsibility of the Health and Safety Executive, who can be contacted on www.hse.gov.uk/reach/index.htm.
BRPPA has played an active role in the early stages of REACH prior to its implementation and organised with the HSE a seminar in 2007 to help its members understand the impacts of REACH. It has also provided its members regular updates on the developments on REACH through its newsletters and via updates at its specialist group meetings including the Rubber Group (RG) and the Polyurethane Elastomers Group (PEG). In addition, BRPPA continues to provide specialist advice to members on matters of concern relating to communication of information with suppliers and downstream users, including advice on Material Safety Data Sheets etc., as well as with the REACH authorities in the UK as well as the European Commission.
The following documents provide a summary of REACH and some of its key aspects:
BRPPA Full Members will have access to all information on REACH in the Members only area. This area will also have regular updated information posted.