The European Parliament on December 13 approved the world's most stringent law aimed at protecting people and the environment from thousands of toxic chemicals - legislation that will have a far-reaching effect on industries and products worldwide, including in the United States.
On Monday 18 December, EP President Josep BORRELL and Finnish Prime Minister Matti VANHANEN officially signed the REACH regulation. The new law, which regulates about 30,000 toxic substances, is far more restrictive and comprehensive than U.S. regulations. The most hazardous - an estimated 1,500 - could be banned or restricted. Included on that list are some compounds used in electronics, furniture, toys, cosmetics and other everyday items.
The Parliament's vote in Strasbourg, France, came after seven years years of review and contentious debate, with strong lobbying by pharmaceutical companies and adamantly opposed by U.S. industry and the Bush administration. The European Parliament gave its approval at second reading by an overwhelming majority. MEPs decided that a fair balance had been struck between the interests of consumers and the environment on the one hand and those of the European chemicals industry on the other.
REACH will enter into force on 1st June 2007. As ever with strongly contested legislation, the outcome is deemed a compromise and not as strong as some European political parties had sought.
Still, environmental activists in the United States were thrilled, saying that Washington has fallen behind in regulating chemicals and predicting that the European law will lead to safer products on both sides of the Atlantic. REACH puts the onus on business to show that the chemicals it uses are safe. Hazardous chemicals are to be replaced with safer ones unless specifically authorised, and the chemicals sector will be encouraged to research and develop more new products. In its ambition, scope and technical complexity, REACH is one of the most important pieces of legislation ever examined by the European Parliament. The text, which exceeded 1000 pages at first reading in November 2005, was still 720 pages long at the end.
REACH or Registration, Evaluation and Authorization of Chemicals, will replace 40 European Union rules with a comprehensive program. A new European Chemicals Agency, based in Helsinki, Finland, will become a central regulatory authority. Related information
: EVISA: (A brief introduction to) REACH: Registration, Evaluation and Authorisation of Chemicals
Henrik Selin, Stacy D. VanDeveer, Raising Global Standards - Hazardous Substances and E-Waste Management in the European Union, Environment, 48/10 (2006) 6-17. DOI: 10.3200/ENVT.48.10.6-18
Related EVISA News (newest first):
June 7, 2011: European Commission announces ban on cadmium in plastics December 1, 2010: ECHA reports the final REACH registration numbers - Nearly 25,000 dossiers November 14, 2010: Registrations pick up as REACH deadline looms September 25, 2010: The European Chemical Agency (ECHA) calls for
comments on reports proposing restrictions on mercury and phenylmercury March 10: 2010: ECHA suggests further chemicals for SVHC list November 13, 2008: REACH pre-registration deadline expires soon September 18, 2008: REACH Update: List of 300 chemicals of very high concern June 3, 2008: European Chemicals Agency opens in Helsinki June 1, 2007: REACH enters into force October 10, 2006: Parties unite on EU chemicals safety law (REACH)
December 14, 2005: REACH: A further step towards final approval
July 1, 2005: European chemicals legislation REACH must be consumer-friendly
last time modified: June 22, 2020