Tougher REACH Needed

Tougher REACH Needed


Since enforcement of REACH in 2006, substantial progress in the management and knowledge of chemical substances used in Europe has been achieved. However, much more effort is needed to move towards cleaner and greener production and use of chemicals and to achieve the commitment in the Seventh Environmental Action Programme (7EAP) of developing by 2018 an EU strategy for a non-toxic environment, says Tatiana Santos, Senior Policy Officer for Chemicals at the European Environmental Bureau (EEB).

Vital to achieving these aims is, e.g., the authorization process of REACH. It was introduced to substitute substances of very high concern with safer alternatives. Substances that pose an important risk to society or the environment are placed in the Annex XIV list to be banned in Europe after a sunset date unless permission for a specific use is granted. The only exception to this is in exceptional circumstances where alternatives are not available or the costs to society are too great. The burden of proof is on operators.

According to the just published EEB report A Roadmap to Revitalise REACH, the authorization process is not working so well. According to the report, too few substances are being put forward for authorization and all applications to continue using substances of very high concern have been granted by the European Commission as recommended by the European Chemicals Agency (ECHA).

The EEB published the report two days before a meeting of the Commission’s REACH Committee, where critical discussions were expected on a number of authorization related issues. These included decisions on whether DEHP (bis(2-ethylhexyl) phthalate), which is used in recycled PVC items and is known to have endocrine disrupting effects, and lead chromates in paints, known to be carcinogenic and toxic for reproduction, would be authorized for continued use. However, the EEB says that all decisions on authorization have again been postponed at the last minute. This confirms their concerns about an unacceptable slowdown in the implementation of REACH.

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