UK presses for simplified approach to REACH

Strong support has been shown for the UK Government's proposals to radically improve the way that hazardous chemicals are handled, from industry and pressure groups alike.

A recent consultation showed that the Government was pressing hard to simplify and improve the EU’s proposed system for the Registration, Evaluation and Authorisation of Chemicals (REACH).

According to Ministers, the UK’s preferred “one substance, one registration” approach would provide greater benefits and protection to human health and the environment, while reducing the pressure on industry and the need for animal testing.

Environment Minister Alun Michael said that the improved approach could only be a win-win situation. “Particularly for the UK this hits all the policy objectives, including efficiency and principles,” he said.

The EU’s existing list of chemicals comprises around 100,000 different substances, of which about 30,00 are manufactured or imported in quantities exceeding one tonne annually.

Side effects on the health and environment are still only known for a relatively small proportion of these chemicals currently in widespread use.

REACH would replace over 40 individual pieces of legislation governing the use and handling of chemicals in Europe, providing a single framework for gathering information and assessing risks. Some chemicals causing particular concern would be restricted for certain uses only.

However, despite the positive benefits this would bring, there have been some concerns amongst the Member States about the implementation of REACH in Europe, especially with regards to the costs that it would incur (see related story).

Other areas of concern identified by the consultation and its response included the withdrawal of substances and substitution as it is currently proposed, as well as the potential of REACH to overlap with other community legislation.

But most stakeholders were still very supportive of the principles of REACH, as well as the Government’s “one substance, one registration” approach.

By Jane Kettle

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