EP Briefing Note on approaches to chemical regulation

Briefing on approaches to chemical regulation (in the USA, Canada, OECD guidelines, Responsible Care) and comparison to the proposed REACH approach.

Existing EU legislation on ‘new’ chemicals and on ‘existing’ chemicals (ie on the market before 18 September 1981) sets quite extensive testing requirements on new chemicals and a procedure for carrying out risk assessments for certain existing chemicals. The scheme is widely regarded as far from sufficient for the aims of protecting human health and the environment, in particular due to weaknesses in addressing ‘existing chemicals’ that make up the bulk of the chemical substances on the market.

In response to the recognised weaknesses of existing legislation, and building on national inputs, the European Commission published, in February 2001, a White Paper entitled ‘Strategy for a Future Chemicals Policy’. The White Paper presented a new regulatory system, called REACH, for the ‘Registration, Evaluation and Authorisation of Chemicals’.

Extensive study, consultation and lobbying activities, informed the Commission in the further development of the proposed legislation, with a formal proposal launched on 29 October 2003. This maintained the spirit and approach of REACH, though including a range of changes as regards the requirements of the scheme, aimed mainly at reducing the burden on EU’s chemical industry without reducing the health and environmental benefits of the scheme.

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