Before chemicals are brought to market in the European Union, they must be assessed and authorized in accordance with the REACH Regulation. The peculiarity is that the regulation affects not only chemical manufacturers, but also companies that produce products that incorporate chemicals.
REACH (“Registration, Evaluation, Authorization and Restriction of Chemicals”) is a regulation initiated by the European Union to improve the protection of human health and the environment from the risks posed by chemicals. REACH is based on the principle that manufacturers, importers and downstream users take responsibility for their chemicals.
How does REACH work?
The European Chemicals Agency (ECHA) is responsible for regulating the technical, scientific and administrative aspects of the registration, evaluation and authorization of chemicals within the EU. Companies must register their substances and cooperate with other companies that register similar products.
Only substances that have been previously registered may be placed on the market. Any manufacturer or importer wishing to market their materials that fall within the scope of REACH must have their own registration number for their substances. REACH applies to both chemicals used in industrial processes and those used in everyday life, such as cleaning products, paints or clothing. In order to comply with the regulation, companies need to identify the risks associated with the substances they manufacture and report them to the ECHA. Manufacturers must also tell the ECHA how to safely use dangerous substances. If there are no possibilities to safely use the substances or other restrictions, this may result in the authorities restricting the use of these materials.
Who is affected by REACH?
The regulation affects many companies in different fields. Companies should therefore be aware of whether REACH applies to them. If you are a manufacturer of chemicals which are being used either for your own use or for export, then REACH is relevant to you. Also for importers buying outside the EU, REACH could be relevant. The imported products do not necessarily have to be chemicals or chemical mixtures; clothes, furniture or other plastic goods can also be affected. Companies or individual workers who use chemicals are referred to as downstream users in REACH. This group includes those who produce goods or services where the focus of business is not chemical, but chemicals are being used in production. Chemicals that are typically used include paints, metals, adhesives, solvents and detergents.