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Brittany Vogel

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QualiPedia: REACH--EU Hazardous Chemical Standard Reaches US

New standard intends to end the use of chemicals that are harmful to health or environment.

Published: Tuesday, June 9, 2009 - 11:13

The European Union is working to make products safer for consumers and manufacturers alike. Its new regulations concerning chemicals used in product makeup, REACH, will extend across the pond to affect chemical standards in the United States. The new legislation will make everything from the manufacturing of home cleaners to the home cleaner itself, safer.

REACH, which stands for Registration, Evaluation, Authorization, and Restriction of Chemical Substances, is a European Community Regulation directed at ending the use of chemicals that are harmful to health or the environment. It was implemented in June 2007, serving as a replacement for more than 40 pieces of EU chemical-related legislation, and it will take a total of 11 years to complete its implementation.

The purpose of REACH is to improve the risk management of chemicals and to provide better safety information by increasing the amount of responsibility awarded to industries. These industries will be required to obtain more information on chemical properties and report to European Chemicals Agency (ECHA).

"The basic philosophy of REACH is that the [chemical] industry is managing the risk, and what REACH does is require the industry to put on paper the knowledge about the chemicals they put on the market, and describe how they are dealing with any possible risk which might be in them," says Joachim Kreysa, ECHA director for cooperation, in an “Environmental Health Perspectives” article (“Chemical Reaction: The U.S. Response to REACH,” Harvey Black, www.pubmedcentral.nih.gov/articlerender.fcgi?artid=2265068).

ECHA acts as the core of the REACH program. It manages an operating system database, heads investigations of suspicious chemicals, and maintains a public database on chemical hazard information.

There are four parts to REACH, registration, evaluation, authorization, and restriction. In registration, industries must annually identify and manage risk, and register their findings as well as their usage plans with ECHA. In evaluation, authorities may decide that some substances require further investigation. Authorization occurs when EU authorities decide that chemicals are being handled and used correctly, and when substitutions are approved. The final part, restrictions, only occurs when authorities feel a substance is dangerous enough that it should not be used or released into the market.

The program has gone beyond the European chemical industry though; many state governments in the United States are working to implement similar policies within their jurisdiction to better regulate chemical usage. In 2007, the countries of North America came together and signed an agreement to evaluate certain chemicals when imported in large quantities.

“Environmental Health Perspectives” reported that Michael Walls, the managing director of health, products, and science policy at the American Chemistry Council, feels this program will force companies to share confidential information. Kreysa refutes this, stating that the amount of information released is completely up to the company—a company is not required to release anything it considers confidential.

Outside of increasing safety in chemical usage and decreasing the use of dangerous ones, REACH also aims to increase the competiveness of the EU in the industry as well as ensuring the free circulation of approved substances in the European market.








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Brittany Vogel

Brittany Vogel is a reporter and editor for Quality Digest.