Ignorance of REACH deadline will put many outside the law

03 November 2008

A seismic shift is going on now in the laws governing the use of chemicals in the UK, but the Royal Society of Chemistry has strong reason to believe that many, if not most, small-to-medium sized companies and educational bodies have not absorbed what they are legally required to do, which will put them on the wrong side of the law. 

New EU regulations demand that all chemicals manufactured or imported into the EU must be registered.  This registration must also include information on every use to which the chemical is put.  If the chemical and its use have not been registered it cannot legally be manufactured, imported or used. Companies and teaching establishments could be barred from using them, running the risk of their operations being severely, or even terminally, hit. 

The REACH regulations accompanied by thousands of pages of 'guidance' are being introduced by the European Parliament and Council. It stands for Registration, Evaluation, Authorisations and restriction of Chemicals.  

To throw light on the situation the RSC is about to publish A Brief Guide to REACH: What You Need to Know, a 24-page distillation of vital information and advice which is available free of charge and accessible on its website. 

"Printed materials being supplied by legislative sources are almost unfathomable," said Richard Pike, chief executive of the Royal Society of Chemistry. "With our RSC summary we have striven to lay out in simple, accurate terms what REACH means and what users of chemicals must do to comply. 

"It is hard to overstate the extent of REACH. It replaces, wholly on in part, a number of European directives and regulations with a single system.  Many of the previous obligations that applied to manufacturers, importers and downstream users have now been incorporated into REACH. We strongly urge everybody who uses chemicals to read the report to make sure that they do not break the law, and possibly run the risk of damaging their operations." 

"The laws are essential for us to operate safely in an increasingly globalised world, but the lack of awareness is one of the unintended consequences of complex science-based legislation being enacted through national and international governments unfamiliar with the practicable principles involved," added Richard Pike.  

"This is not the first time; nor will it be the last. For future legislation, it will be important for governments and their civil service to have a stronger scientific representation, so that key issues can be distilled, scrutinised and disseminated in a timely and effective way, and avoid the circumstances that we now find ourselves in." 

The main aims of REACH are to provide a high level of protection of health and the environment, to make manufacturers and importers responsible for understanding and managing the risks, to allow free movement of chemical substances, to enhance innovation, and to promote use of alternative methods for assessing hazardous properties of substances.  

Dr David Taylor, chairman of the Royal Society of Chemistry environmental, health and safety policy group, said that businesses , including teaching establishments,  that use chemicals supplied by manufacturers or importers are considered to be 'Downstream Users'  and they also have obligations under REACH.

"We know from discussions with Royal Society of Chemistry members that many professional chemists are making the assumption that the REACH Regulation only applies to large chemical companies.  

"They could not be more mistaken. The REACH Regulation is the most comprehensive piece of chemical regulation to appear anywhere in the world."  

Dr Taylor added: "Its 840 pages apply to virtually every use of every chemical, both naturally occurring and synthetic that is manufactured, imported or used within the 27 member states of the European Community. 

"Anybody who is a professional chemist will almost certainly have new obligations as a result of the REACH Regulation. 

"University lecturers, school teachers, chemists working in development, and formulation are all affected to different degrees.  

"Similarly everyone who uses chemicals in any manufacturing process gains new duties. Since these are legal requirements, failure to comply could be a criminal offence.  

A range of  new  duties fall to the Downstream Users such as companies, local education authorities, universities, colleges and schools  to provide information to their suppliers. . 

The first recommendation listed in the RSC report is for manufacturers and importers to ensure that their substances are pre-registered by the December 1st deadline and that users check that any substance they need to use is included on the list of pre-registered substances. Many other duties follow, which are explained clearly in the RSC report. 

David Taylor said: "About 30,000 substances are covered by REACH. The impact of its enactment in the UK will have consequences that touch universities and schools and countless other users.  A lot of work is going to be required over the next few years from people who are already busy but once the system is up and running we will have a good system to manage the manufacture and use of chemicals which play such a central, vital  and generally, beneficial role in our daily lives." 

Related Link

A Brief Guide to REACH

A brief guide to REACH

31 October 2008

A 24-page distillation of vital information and advice on the REACH regulation being introduced by the European Parliament.

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