What are REACH regulations?
REACH is a European Union regulation: Registration, Evaluation, Authorisation and Restriction of Chemicals. It entered into force on 1st June 2007 as a single system to replace numerous directives and regulations.
REACH regulations were adopted to improve the protection of human health and the environment from the risks posed by chemicals and to make the companies that place them on the market to be more responsible for the management and understanding of the risks associated with them. This applies to virtually all chemical substances and mixtures including those used in industrial processes and also to those that are used in everyday life.
REACH requires companies to identify and manage the risks that are associated with the substances that they manufacture – they have to demonstrate how these substances can be safely used, and they must communicate the risk management measures to the end user.
How does it work?
REACH has established procedures for collecting and assessing information on the hazards and properties of substances. Companies must register their substances and work in collaboration with other companies who register the same substance.
The European Chemicals Agency (ECHA) receives and evaluates individual registrations for compliance and evaluates selected substances that may have adverse effects on human health or the environment. Authorities assess whether the risks of a substance can be managed and can prohibit the use of hazardous substances if their risks are unmanageable.
The effect on companies
REACH regulations impact a wide range of companies across many sectors and many of these may not even consider themselves to be involved with chemicals.
Manufacturers: If you make chemicals, either to use yourself or to supply to other people (even if it’s for export), then you will have important responsibilities under REACH.
Importers: If you buy anything from outside the EU, you are likely to have some responsibilities under REACH. It may be individual chemicals, mixtures for onwards sale or finished products, like plastic goods, clothes, furniture and paints.
Downstream users: Most companies use chemicals, sometimes even without realising it, therefore they need to check their obligations.
Registration is a requirement on manufacturers and importers to collect specific information on the properties of the substances that they manufacture or supply (at or above 1 tonne per year). They also have to make an assessment of the hazards and potential risks presented by the substance. This information is used to perform an assessment of the hazards and risks that a substance may pose and how those risks can be controlled. This information and its assessment is submitted to the ECHA.
Registration is based on the “one substance, one registration” principle. This means that manufacturers and importers of the same substance have the obligation to submit their registration jointly. The information provided should be consistent and sufficient to confirm the substance identity.
If you do not register your substances, then the data on them will not be available and as a result, you will no longer be able to manufacture or supply them legally – no data, no market! A fee us usually charged for substance registration.
Registration applies to substances on their own, substances in mixtures and certain cases of substances in articles.
Exemptions from authorisation
Some substances that are already regulated by other legislations such as medicines, motor fuels, pesticides, animal feedstuff additives, waste materials, materials used in scientific research and development, and radioactive materials are partially or completely exempted from REACH requirements.
For advice on the application of REACH regulations and obligations, you can contact the UK REACH national helpdesk:
Further information can be found on the ECHA website.