From: Andy Soos, ENN
Published January 19, 2010 03:45 PM

Reach: High Hazard Chemicals

Registration, Evaluation, Authorization and restriction of CHemicals (REACH) is a European Union Regulation. REACH addresses the production and use of chemical substances, and their potential impacts on both human health and the environment. REACH started in June 2007, with a phased implementation over the next decade. The rules were created for the better protection of human health and protection of the environment by ultimately regulating the use and limits of toxic substances.

The European Chemicals Agency has recently added 14 substances to the list of very high concern chemicals to undergo special health and safety scrutiny under the bloc's chemical regulation REACH.  The total is now 29.


Apart from the potential costs to industry and the complexity of the new law, REACH has also attracted concern because of the potential for a very significant increase in animal testing under the proposal. Animal tests on vertebrates are allowed only once per one substance, and where suitable alternatives can not be used. If a company pays for these tests, it must sell the rights to the results for a reasonable price. There are additional concerns that access to the necessary information may prove very costly for potential registrants needing to purchase this.

The Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) is a United States law, passed by the United States Congress in 1976, that regulates the introduction of new or already existing chemicals. It grandfathered most existing chemicals, in contrast to the Registration, Evaluation and Authorization of Chemicals legislation of the European Union. However, TSCA is the equivalent to REACH in the US.

The current list of 29 REACH substances is still a long way away from the 270 substances identified for priority substitution on a REACH SIN List drafted jointly by public interest groups.

Currently the chemicals on the Reach list are considered carcinogenic, reproductive hazards, and Persistent Bioaccumulative Toxic (PBT).

The current actions only represent registration and evaluation. Evaluation is not yet complete and the list of 29 may grow much larger. The next step after this is complete is authorization and/or restriction of the chemical in question. This may imply limits, further testing, and bans.

Further regulatory headaches may lie ahead for a number of chemical companies, as new Environment Commissioner designate Janez Potočnik said during his hearing in the European Parliament this week (13 January) that "it is becoming obvious that REACH is not enough" to cover nanomaterials, suggesting that the EU would take action to remedy regulatory gaps on the matter.

EPA (under TSCA) is also taking similar actions on several selected chemicals and is considering the issue of nano materials also.

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