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What is REACH?

REACH (Registration, Evaluation, Authorization and Restriction of Chemicals) is a regulation designed to improve the protection of human health and the environment from the risks posed by chemicals. REACH Regulation (EC) 1907/2006 is a regulation from the European Union (EU). It is the strictest law to date regulating chemical substances affecting industries throughout the world. The regulation also established the European Chemicals Agency (ECHA), which manages the technical, scientific and administrative aspects of REACH.

REACH for manufacturers and importers

The main topics covered by ECHA under REACH affecting manufacturers and importers are the following:

  • Registration: Companies manufacturing or importing chemicals in the EU in quantities greater than 1 metric ton per year must register the substances with the European Chemicals Agency (ECHA).
  • Authorization: Substances classified as hazardous may only be manufactured or imported if they have been authorized by the ECHA.
  • Restriction: The ECHA may impose restrictions on the manufacture, use, or sale of substances found to pose a risk to human health or the environment.
  • Communication of information: Companies must communicate information on the safe use of substances to their customers and downstream users. For example via materials safety datasheets (MSDS)
  • Substitution: Where feasible, companies must replace hazardous substances with safer alternatives.
  • Supply chain information: Companies must provide information on the substances they use in the production of articles, such as consumer goods, and make this information available to consumers. For example the notification and communication of Substances of Very High Concern (SVHC)
  • Testing: Companies may be required to carry out additional testing on substances to further assess their potential risks. For example the mandatory assessment of SVHC substances present in articles.

Microplastics under REACH

Substances that pose unacceptable health or environmental risks can be restricted within the REACH framework. There is increasing concern about the pollution from microplastics, and the risk it causes in ecosystems and food chains. Each year, an estimated amount of 42000 tonnes of intentionally added microplastics are released into the environment [1]. These are microplastics that are intentionally added to products for specific purposes, such as cosmetics, laundry products, fertilisers, plant protection products, seed coating, and other applications.

To prevent the intentional addition of microplastics in products that are placed on the European market, the European Commission asked the European Chemicals Agency (ECHA) to develop a restrictions proposal (a so-called Annex XV report). Only some polymeric materials compliant with certain biodegradability standards may still be added to products under the restriction proposal.

Read our in-depth news article to learn more about microplastics and the restrictions from ECHA.

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Marco Mense

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