REACH Gets A 5-Year Review

It’s been five years since REACH* was adopted. Now, five years later, the European Commission (EC) is preparing to review the legislation.

The review is expected to be significant but not overwhelming. The EC-led review will be based on “lessons learned” from the implementation of REACH, focusing on the costs and administrative burden and other “impacts on innovation.”REACH regulation The review will include:

    1. Test method costs and spends: an audit of the amount and distribution of funding made available by the EC for the development and evaluation of alternative test methods.
    2. REACH scope: whether to amend REACH scope to avoid overlaps with other EU legislation.
    3. ECHA: a review of the European Chemicals Agency (ECHA).
    4. Lower tonnage substances: a review of registration requirements for lower tonnage substances.

‘So, how’s my driving?’ Originally, REACH sought to test, analyze, categorize and track ~100,000 chemical substances. But since 2006, only a small number of chemicals have actually been reviewed, starting with a list of 47 Substances of Very High Concern (click here for full SVHC list), which are suspected of causing cancer or disturbing the human reproductive system.

“But there are a lot more substances out there,” said Jamie Page from the Cancer Prevention and Education Society, as reported by Euractiv.

Page is calling for the screening process to be accelerated. “Obviously, there are a lot of chemicals on the market – people estimate between 80,000 and 100,000 – so it is like a few down, a lot to go.”

ChemSec, an environmental lobby group, has recently accused the EU of delaying action on “endocrine-disrupting” chemicals such as phthalates, calling on regulators to speed up work. ChemSec wants 378 substances included in the SVHC list. “There are a lot of controversial products,” Page concurred, citing Bisphenol A, a compound which has recently been banned in plastic baby bottles but which some scientists believe could be harmful in other guises, such as coatings for food cans.

Activist lawyers ClientEarth and chemicals campaigners ChemSec recently said they had sued ECHA for refusing to disclose the names of facilities producing 356 potentially dangerous chemicals. ECHA told Reuters in May it had decided to publish company names ONLY in the case of firms that are suppliers of hazardous substances, but that those entities and stakeholders could request confidentiality.

For producers of nonhazardous chemicals, the disclosure would be voluntary.

Notes: * REACH is the European regulation for the safe use of chemicals. REACH deals with the registration, evaluation, authorization and restriction of chemical substances. Adopted in 2006, it entered into force on June 1, 2007. The European Chemicals Agency (ECHA), based in Helsinki, Finland, acts as overseer of the REACH system.

REACH strives to do two things: 1) catalogue all ~100,000 chemicals in use today, and 2) set restrictions on uses of toxic chemicals.

ECHA guidance:

Fighting Back


IPC is taking aim at Greenpeace for its aggressive stance against electronics OEMs and their environmental stewardship. The trade group last night issued a statement asserting Greenpeace’s quarterly report card on electronics companies is based on “faulty science.” IPC further alleges the environmental organization penalizes companies that do not subscribe to its agenda.

Thank goodness and it’s about time.

I’ve criticized Greenpeace in the past for its foolhardy attempts to globally ban on anything with even minimal toxicity while conveniently overlooking the bigger picture: many of the potential replacement materials are unproven and product that doesn’t work ends up in landfills faster than you can say “Save the whales.” Don’t get me wrong: Greenpeace is a great organization, but it is out of its league here. While some groups, like ChemSec in Europe, are very well-informed about materials science and its tradeoffs, others like Greenpeace use questionable methodologies to further their agendas. That in itself is a problem, but even worse, all the blown smoke obscures — and perhaps even diminishes — the potential for real dialogue on how to solve the bigger problems.

Greenpeace’s methods are aimed at maximizing attention for itself and putting its targets on the defensive. OEMs, faced with a no-win proposition, tend to publicly bow in the face of pressure (although apparently not fast enough for Greenpeace). I’d rather they sit down and have extensive, publicized open meetings on what it means to be environmentally responsible.