Is REACH Regulation changing the products you use?

March 29,2016

It has been almost 10 years since the EU’s Registration, Evaluation, Authorization and Restriction of Chemicals (REACH) Regulation went into effect on June 1, 2007. Since then, it has gone under intense scrutiny and has been the target of much controversy. It took 7 years to pass and is known to be the most complex and most important legislation in EU history.1 We are just now beginning to see its full impact.

It has been almost 10 years since the EU’s Registration, Evaluation, Authorization and Restriction of Chemicals (REACH) Regulation went into effect on June 1, 2007. Since then, it has gone under intense scrutiny and has been the target of much controversy. It took 7 years to pass and is known to be the most complex and most important legislation in EU history.1 We are just now beginning to see its full impact.

For those unfamiliar with REACH, it is a regulation of the European Union, adopted to improve the protection of human health and the environment from the risks that can be posed by chemicals, while enhancing the competitiveness of the EU chemicals industry. It also promotes alternative methods for the hazard assessment of substances to reduce animal testing.2 EU REACH covers many aspects of chemical import, manufacture and use in the European Union, however, the three main elements — registration, authorization, and restriction — all place responsibility for compliance on business. For example, any substance that is manufactured or imported in quantities over 1000kg must be registered. Particularly hazardous substances can require a license authorization to use and will ultimately be removed from use. Some are already restricted or banned from use.

Substances of very high concern (SVHCs) start out on the candidate list, progress to the authorization list (Annex XIV) and are published along with restricted substances on the European Chemical Agency (ECHA) website, http://echa.europa.eu/regulations/reach. Naturally, suppliers, customers and end users are eager to understand the consequences of a substance being listed and plan actions for compliance.

Dow Interconnect Technologies provides chemical solutions to a global customer base for diverse applications for consumer, automotive, communications, industrial, medical and military markets. The provision of REACH compliant products requires substantial effort throughout the supply chain and well in advance of restrictions being applied. Authorization presents the biggest threat to product future compliance as it targets specific hazardous substances, some of which are in use in electronics manufacturing.

For each restricted substance, we have a number of possible actions on the road to compliance. Our choices are to remove the products from the market; replace it with an alternative product; reformulate it to remove the substance; or submit an authorization request.

Several organizations and consortia have prepared authorization applications, where alternative “compliant” solutions do not appear to be available or ready for industrial use ahead of the sunset date. Authorization, if permitted, is however only a temporary permit, to allow the business extended time to develop alternative solutions.

The priority of a substance progressing through the authorization process is difficult to predict, it is often a politically influenced process, therefore regular review of the submissions on the ECHA web site is recommended.

The cost of maintaining compliance can be a barrier for some and therefore early communication with suppliers and throughout the supply chain is very important so that early action can be taken to find compliant sources or substitutes as appropriate.

Many observers consider EU REACH to be only a European Union issue, but as a global business with a global supply chain we are seeing a growing global impact. We are also seeing other countries and regions discussing and implementing similar legislation.

In 2010, China’s version of REACH, the Provisions on Environmental Administration of New Chemical Substances, went into effect.3 Korea passed The Act on Registration and Evaluation of Chemicals of Korea (K-REACH) in 2013 and it is regarded as the first REACH-style chemical regulation adopted in an Asian country. K-REACH manages new chemical substances, existing chemical substances and downstream products by prescribing the requirements for registration, hazard evaluation and risk assessment.4

Further revisions to chemical registration, human and environmental protection regulations are happening in a growing list of regions and countries including Switzerland, Canada, California, Russia, Belarus and Kazakhstan.

There are few areas in our markets that will not be impacted. Given that some applications have remained relatively unchanged for decades, EU REACH and its global counterparts will certainly drive change. Further commentary will be forthcoming to share new product details allowing REACH compliance amongst the product features.

References:
1.  http://www.reachready.co.uk/reach.php
2.  http://echa.europa.eu/regulations/reach
3. cirs-reach
4. reach24hr.com