Chemical legislation will be far REACHing, warn lawyers

Europe's new REACH regulations will have an impact far beyond the confines of the chemical companies, with manufacturers across the continent likely to be affected by the ripples of the rules.

The Registration, Evaluation, Authorisation and Restriction of Chemical Substances (REACH) regulations have the dubious honour of being the most complicated piece of legislation to have been drawn up by Europe thus far with estimates putting the number of chemicals likely to require registration at around 30,000.

International law firm Eversheds has pointed out that this will impact on manufacturers of all types and sizes and is likely to lead to significant compliance costs for industry – as the use of unregistered chemicals becomes illegal.

Dave Gordon, environmental and regulatory partner at Eversheds, said: “The REACH legislation is extremely complex as it brings together over 40 separate pieces of legislation that govern European chemical safety.

“However, businesses should not fall into the trap of believing that the legislation only affects chemical manufacturers.

“The impact of the legislation will be felt right down the supply chain to the end user – any business manufacturing or importing industrial chemicals will need to register the substances they use or they will no longer be able to continue manufacturing their products.

“While the affect of the regulation will be widespread, the legislation is expected to have particular impact on sectors including transport and textiles.”

Due to the vastness of the task to register over 30,000 chemicals, and the significant cost to businesses to comply, the registration process will be implemented over three phases over the next 11 years.

However, companies that wish to pre-register substances only have a very limited window to do so – until 30 November 2008.

Mr Gordon added: “The pre-registration process is strongly advised for several reasons. It will allow users and manufacturers of chemicals to obtain a much longer timeframe to compile the detailed technical dossiers and chemical safety reports required for full registration, as well as allowing the company to manufacture and import their substances for several years until the registration deadline is reached.

“Pre-registration is free, and does not commit a company to full registration. Also, companies who pre-register their substances can benefit by forming a ‘Substance Information Exchange Forum’ (SIEF) where manufacturers and suppliers can negotiate to share their available data in order to reduce unnecessary testing.

“Companies can also reduce costs by sharing the costs of generating any new data.”

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