Opinion: European Chemicals Industry Faces Regulatory Upheaval

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The European Union chemicals industry is facing what is arguably the biggest regulatory change for 25 years when the Registration, Evaluation and Authorisation of Chemicals (REACH) regulations are implemented in mid-2007. REACH is intended to bring existing chemicals substances into a positive testing regime wherein a product will have to be registered, risk assessed and then authorised prior to marketing and use in the EU.

Currently, chemicals substances fall onto one of two lists. Substances on the EU market between 1 January 1971 and 18 September 1981 fall onto the European Inventory of Existing Chemicals Substances (EINECS) list and are exempt from regulation. All other chemicals fall onto the New Substances List, although it is noteworthy that pesticides, biocides, medicines, cosmetics and food additives are excluded from either list and come under separate regulations.

The EINECS list comprises about 110,000 substances although in practice only about 30,000 are sold on the EU market today. Because of the lack of regulatory compulsion, most of the EINECS substances have not been fully risk assessed. The industry has voluntarily tested about 80 substances during the last decade.

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