What is REACH?

REACH is the European Community Regulation on chemicals and their safe use, which came into force on the 1st of June 2007. It deals with the Registration, Evaluation, Authorisation and Restriction of Chemical substances.

REACH addresses the use and production of chemical substances, and their potential impacts on both the environment and human health. REACH is the most comprehensive and stringent European chemical legislation to date. Although the legislation has come into force, due to the vast amount of chemicals used in Europe it will not be fully implemented until the end of the decade.
REACH requires all companies producing chemical substances in the European Union or importing them in quantities over one tonne per year to register these substances with the European Chemicals Agency (ECHA).
The regulation foresees three registration phases, the first one ended on 30 November 2010. The two following ones end in 2013 and 2018. The registration is only one aspect of the Regulation, Evaluation and Authorisation/Restriction being the complementary ones.

REACH requires manufacturers and importers of chemical substances (larger than or equal to 1 tonne/year) to obtain information on the physicochemical, health and environmental properties of their substances and use it to determine how these substances can be used safely. Each manufacturer and importer must submit a registration dossier documenting the data and assessments to ECHA.
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ECHA will perform dossier evaluation to assess testing proposals made by the registrant or to check that the registration dossiers comply with the requirements. ECHA will also co-ordinate substance evaluation, which will be conducted by the Member States to investigate more in depth chemicals of concern.
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Authorisation is required for the prioritised substances of very high concern (SVHC) that are included in Annex XIV. Companies applying for authorisation will have to demonstrate that risks associated with uses of these substances are adequately controlled or that the socio-economic benefits from their use outweigh the risks.
Applicants will also have to investigate the possibility of substituting these substances with safer alternatives or technologies, and prepare substitution plans, if appropriate.
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The European Union can impose restrictions and prohibit or set conditions for the manufacture, placing on the market or use of certain dangerous substances or group of substances when unacceptable risks to humans or the environment have been identified.

Understanding REACH - Background information