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Chemical Regulation

Curtain finally rises on Europe's REACH program

by Patricia Short
June 11, 2007 | A version of this story appeared in Volume 85, Issue 24

After more than three years of wrangling about wording and coverage, REACH, the European chemicals regulatory program, has come into force.

The new European Chemicals Agency will administer REACH, which stands for Regulation, Evaluation & Authorization of Chemicals. It aims to bring all chemicals and compounds into a health and safety regime standardized throughout the 27-member European Union.

Manufacturers have 18 months to preregister their products and will then have 11 years to generate safety data on the products.

An estimated 30,000 chemicals and compounds will be affected by REACH. How many of these substances will actually be tested by producers, though, is unclear. "When similar legislation was introduced for biocides recently, we found that only about 40% of the substances that were preregistered went on to complete a full registration" with the complete safety workups, observes Dave Gordon, partner and environmental law expert at British legal firm Eversheds. "The remainder were either modified significantly, replaced, or scrapped altogether because they were considered to be no longer viable."

Larger chemical companies are well-prepared for REACH. At Degussa, for example, "we are actively preparing for preregistration as a first step" to meeting REACH regulations, reports Jochen Rudolph, head of the Corporate Division of Environment, Safety, Health & Quality.

Ernst Schwanhold, head of the BASF Center of Competence for the Environment, Safety & Energy, says his company will register about 2,500 chemical entities under REACH and expects annual costs of $65 million through 2018.

For smaller companies, complying with REACH will put more of a strain on their resources, industry observers say.


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