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REACH: Chemicals in Europe have become safer
The use of chemicals in Europe has become considerably safer since the REACH regulation entered into force, according to a European Commission report published recently. More readily available information about chemical substances on the market and better targeted risk management measures mean that risks from substances registered under REACH have significantly decreased. The trend is expected to continue, as industry is continuously working towards finding substitutes for the most hazardous chemicals. Five years after REACH's entry into force, implementation is in full swing. Companies have now registered 30,601 files with the European Chemicals Agency (ECHA) describing the uses and properties of 7,884 chemical substances manufactured or placed on the market. According to a Eurobarometer survey published recently, 61% of Europeans think that chemicals are now safer than 10 years ago.
The report acknowledges the costs related to the administration of REACH and their impact on SMEs, but industry also recognizes the positive economic effects for their business. By further harmonising the internal market, REACH has been a key driver for growth and competitiveness for the chemical industry. To further promote the competitiveness of the European chemical industry, the Commission will soon propose to reduce registration fees for SMEs.
European Commission Vice-President Antonio Tajani, Commissioner for Industry and Entrepreneurship, and Janez Potočnik, Commissioner for Environment said: "This report shows that REACH works. Companies are facing their responsibilities and as a result we have better data about the chemicals they produce and place on the market. We are off to a good start, and this would not have been possible without persistent efforts by the European Chemicals Agency, ECHA. However, there is still work to be done to ensure a high level of protection of human health and the environment. We are committed to maintaining a safe and sustainable chemical industry in Europe. REACH, the most comprehensive chemicals legislation in the world, can help us achieve this goal and ease the free circulation of chemicals in the internal market. With REACH, our chemical industry can become a world leader in innovation."
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The review concludes that while some adjustments are needed, no major overhaul is required. Its main findings are:
The report makes recommendations to improve REACH implementation. These include improving the quality of registration dossiers, enhancing the use of safety data sheets as a central risk management tool, and addressing issues related to cost sharing within Substance Information Exchange Forums (SIEFs).
The report recommends reducing the financial and administrative burden on SMEs in order to ensure the proportionality of legislation and to assist them to fulfil all their REACH obligations.
There are no major overlaps with other EU legislation.
Considerable efforts to develop alternative methods to animal testing have been made and will continue: since 2007, the Commission has made available € 330 million to fund research in this area.
Enforcement could be improved. As this is the responsibility of the Member States, the report recommends that Member States reinforce coordination amongst them.
Although the report identifies a need for some adjustments to the legislation, the Commission wants to ensure legislative stability and predictability for European businesses. No changes to REACH's main terms are proposed at present.
The Commission will discuss the outcomes of the REACH review with the Member States and stakeholders.
In cooperation with Member States and ECHA, the Commission is developing a roadmap to assess and identify substances of very high concern (SVHC). It will set out clear milestones, deliverables and the division of work between the Commission, Member States and ECHA to place all relevant known SVHC on the candidate list by 2020.
The Commission will also look into greater fee reductions to SMEs to spread the financial impact of registration more evenly.
The next deadline under the REACH regulation is 31 May 2013, by when industry must register all phase-in substances manufactured or imported in the EU at or above 100 tonnes a year.
REACH is the Regulation on Registration, Evaluation, Authorisation and restriction of CHemicals. The REACH review examines the overall operation of REACH and the attainment of its unique set of objectives – a high level of protection of human health and the environment, the promotion of alternative methods for assessment of hazards of substances, as well as the free circulation of substances on the internal market while enhancing competitiveness and innovation.
From 1999 to 2009 the EU chemical industry grew slightly higher than the average rate for all manufacturing sectors, and has largely recovered from the crisis of 2008. The industry generates a positive trade balance and is particularly well-performing in high margin sectors of specialty chemicals. In 2003, when REACH was proposed, the EU was the world's largest chemicals market with approximately 30 % of global chemicals sales. Today it amounts to about 21 %, with China now being the largest chemicals market. However the EU remains the world's largest exporter of chemicals and over recent years the industry's turnover has increased in absolute terms.
Chemicals and Enterprise and Industry
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