REACH Will Reach Well Beyond the EU

There’s been a lot of talk recently about the REACH regulation .  In my opinion it is perhaps the most significant piece of legislation regulating chemical substances to come down the pike, and its impact will be felt by many industries around the globe.

What is REACH?
REACH is a European Union (EU) regulation governing the Registration, Evaluation, Authorization (and restriction) of Chemicals.  It addresses the production and use of chemical substances, and their potential impacts on both human health and the environment .

The regulation requires the registration of some 30,000 popular chemicals , as well as all newly produced formulations, that are either imported or exported into the EU .  Along with the registration, each substance is required to carry with it adequate safety and risk assessment data . Some substances, those considered to be of very high concern (SVHC) may need to be authorized at significant cost.  Dates for the registration process vary over some 10 years to 2018.  But chemicals of highest use and the greatest concern will be considered as a higher priority.

So what does it really mean?
Well, that depends on your business.   For any US company who ships chemicals to Europe or has manufacturing operations in Europe that require large quantities chemicals as raw material inputs, then the law is very relevant.

Registration is dependent on the amount in tonnage that is imported into the EU , and some sources I’ve found indicate the costs can vary from as little as $2,000 to well over $40,000.  SVHC authorization costs of can be more significant, reaching upwards of $70,000 or more.

If it hasn’t happened already, US companies will likely find rising prices for products and raw materials purchased from the EU as these companies come on line with compliance.

US companies with operations in the EU are more likely to be affected by REACH regulations immediately , especially as their supply-chain network and downstream users are required to comply with a variety of registration procedures.

Over the next several years, there are additional phased in requirements with the first round of registration closing in December of 2010 for the most hazardous SVHC chemicals .

But even if you don’t export chemicals to Europe, I think it’s important to consider the longer term implications of REACH and the evolving regulatory environment here in North America.

It’s safe to assume that chemical safety and environmental impact issues are going to continue to be major focus areas of the key regulatory and political organizations in the years ahead.

The bottom line is the North American voter as well as those globally are forcing politicians to take a closer look at the impact of chemicals on employees, consumers, the general public and the environment.

Initiatives like REACH are intended to force companies who use hazardous chemicals to look for less hazardous alternatives .  While initiatives like REACH may drive up costs for some manufacturers, suppliers and even the consumer, I believe, if they are implemented effectively, everyone will benefit in the long run.

– Glenn Trout, President, MSDSonline