Status of Safety of Chemicals in Europe

Status of Safety of Chemicals in Europe

Author: Vera Koester

The European Chemicals Agency (ECHA) published its second report on the progress and challenges of the chemicals legislation of the EU, REACH (Registration, Evaluation, Authorization and Restriction of Chemicals) and CLP (Classification, Labeling and Packaging Regulation). The report also gives recommendations to the European Commission (EC), the Member States, and industry. The main conclusion is that the regulations are working and delivering the expected results. The Agency does not see any urgent need to revise the REACH regulation; it recommends a change in the CLP law.

REACH entered into force in 2007. It requires all companies manufacturing or importing chemical substances into the EU to register these with the ECHA. CLP entered into force in 2009. It introduces a globally harmonized system for classifying and labeling chemicals into the EU to enusre that hazards presented by chemicals are communicated. Companies need to notify ECHA of the classification and labeling that they use for their chemicals. Altogether, the idea is to reliably inform consumers and workers on dangerous substances in products they buy or come in contact with.

A main benefit so far is the wealth of information on chemicals that is now freely available on ECHA’s website. ECHA has received 54,000 registration dossiers containing information on 140,000 chemicals. Nearly 10,000 companies have registered chemicals and have informed ECHA of their substances’ classification. 31 of the 168 substances of very high concern (SVHC) have been placed on the Authorization List. This means they cannot be used without a specific authorization.

Concerns and Recommendations
Particularly concerning is the quality of registration and classification data on chemicals submitted by some companies. ECHA calls on companies to update and improve the quality of their registration data and safety data sheets on chemicals. As companies provide contradictory classifications of substances, ECHA recommends a review of the requirements in the CLP regulation. Companies should share their data and should agree on the classification of a substance and resolve any unjustified differences. Also the interface between REACH and CLP and other legislations should be optimized by making more use of the data generated.

The release of the report was announced at the Helsinki Chemicals Forum (HCF) at the Messukeskus Helsinki Expo and Convention Centre.


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