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REACH ‘headed in the right direction’

Europe – In its first five years of operation, REACH, the European regulation on the safe use of chemicals, has submitted 2800 dossiers covering 5500 dangerous substances to the European Chemicals Agency with the aim of restricting their future use.

So far the regulation has helped identify well over 70 high-risk chemicals (Substances of Very High Concern), 14 of which may no longer be used without authorisation as of 2014 and 2015. These chemicals mostly contain reprotoxic softeners and environmentally sensitive substances such as the flame retardant hexabromocyclododecane. ‘€˜This shows REACH provides the foundation for more effective regulation of chemicals’€™, concluded Jochen Flasbarth, President of the German Federal Environment Agency (UBA).

Mr Flasbarth said the controls were ‘€˜certainly headed in the right direction,’€™ but a series of spot checks has revealed that not all dossiers meet the required standard. In many cases, the information provided by manufacturers and importers is seen as too ‘€˜vague’€™, resulting in known hazards either remaining unidentified or severely understated.

UBA notes that the dossiers also do not yet fully cover nanomaterials, which could potentially lead to an underestimation of risk. ‘€˜The lack of data compromises one of the most important objectives of REACH ‘€“ that is, to reliably assess the risks posed to mankind and the environment by chemicals,’€™ Mr Flasbarth said.

Since consumers rarely appear to take advantage of their right to information guaranteed by REACH, the UBA has decided to join forces with Friends of the Earth Germany (BUND) to create an online information request. This digital tool, which will also be made available as a special app, generates an automatic query which is sent to merchants when the product bar code is entered.

The Federation of German Consumer Organisations (VZBV) wants to make the whole system more transparent and is calling for compulsory labelling on substances of very high concern. The group’€™s Chairman, Gerd Billen, said this would benefit consumers as they would ‘€˜no longer be inconvenienced by sending enquiries to dealers’€™.

The UBA itself is also demanding additional steps, and has appealed to the industry to maintain the highest possible standards during the registration and submitting process. It has urged regulatory authorities to give registrants better support and would like to see the number of spot checks increased.

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