EU Proposes Overhaul of Chemical Regulation

May 7, 2003
The European Union today proposed a new system for registering, evaluating and authorizing chemicals used in commerce and consumer products. While environmentalists hailed the proposal, the chemical industry warned it could have dire economic consequences.

At the heart of the draft legislation, which would replace 40 existing directives and regulations, is REACH, or Registration, Evaluation and Authorization of Chemicals, which would be phased in over a 11-year period. REACH would require that all chemicals marketed over 1 ton per year be assessed for their risks. The tightest controls would be imposed on "carcinogens, mutagens and reproductive toxicants (CMRs), persistent, bioaccumulative and toxic substances (PBTs) and very persistent and very bioaccumulative substances (vPvBs)," according to the EU, as well as certain other substances, such as those that produce endocrine disruption effects.

The EU estimates that about 80 percent of all substances would only have to be registered, while the remaining 20 percent will have to undergo new testing for safety and subsequent authorization.

The proposed legislation would create a new chemicals agency to manage REACH, including the maintenance of a new publicly accessible database containing non-confidential testing data.

EU officials said the legislation was designed to "increase the protection of human health and the environment from exposure to chemicals while at the same time "maintain(ing) and enhanc(ing) the competitiveness and innovative capability of the EU chemicals industry."

Environmentalists in the United States hailed what one called a "common-sense approach to managing the use of toxic substances." Daryl Ditz, senior program officer at the World Wildlife Fund's U.S. Toxics Programs, said REACH "has the potential to transform the global playing field, demanding greater accountability from industry and rewarding companies that offer safer products."

Last week, however, in a speech at the 2003 Global Chemicals Regulations Conference, Greg Lebedev, president and CEO of the American Chemistry Council, called the proposal "a one-size-fits-all approach that is unwieldy, confusing and insensitive to economic reality." He warned of the "possibility that otherwise safe products that have been regularly coming to market could disappear altogether or be delayed by the fog of this emerging regulatory regime."

The proposal has been made available on the internet for feedback during the next eight weeks at

Sponsored Recommendations

Free Webinar: ISO 45001 – A Commitment to Occupational Health, Safety & Personal Wellness

May 30, 2024
Secure a safer and more productive workplace using proven Management Systems ISO 45001 and ISO 45003.

ISO 45003 – Psychological Health and Safety at Work

May 30, 2024
ISO 45003 offers a comprehensive framework to expand your existing occupational health and safety program, helping you mitigate psychosocial risks and promote overall employee...

DH Pace, national door and dock provider, reduces TRIR and claims with EHS solution

May 29, 2024
Find out how DH Pace moved from paper/email/excel to an EHS platform, changing their culture. They reduced TRIR from 4.8 to 1.46 and improved their ability to bid on and win contracts...

Case Study: Improve TRIR from 4+ to 1 with EHS Solution and Safety Training

May 29, 2024
Safety training and EHS solutions improve TRIR for Complete Mechanical Services, leading to increased business. Moving incidents, training, and other EHS procedures into the digital...

Voice your opinion!

To join the conversation, and become an exclusive member of EHS Today, create an account today!