So, after 5 years of REACH regulation, what is the public perception of chemicals in Europe?
The European Commission ran a “Eurobarometer” survey on the public perception of chemicals. The target sample size in most countries was 1,000 interviews. In total, 25,557 interviews were conducted.
According to the survey, citizens are generally well aware of the wide application of chemicals. 61% of Europeans say that chemicals on the EU market today are safer than 10 years ago. Furthermore, 69% of Europeans consider chemicals unavoidable for their daily life and 75% relate them to industrial innovations.
More than half of the respondents agree that chemicals can help reduce the use of natural resources. Nevertheless, only 43% of respondents agree that chemicals can contribute to a better environment. In general, Europeans are split on who’s ensuring the safety of chemical substances, thinking it’s either industry who’s responsible or public authorities. Come to think of it, it’s fair to say many insiders are confused about that too!
Chemicals in Europe are safer under REACH. All this because on Feb. 5, ECHA released the published version of the 5-Year REACH Review.
ECHA is saying that the use of chemicals in Europe has become considerably safer since the REACH regulation entered into force. More readily available information about chemical substances on the market and better targeted risk management measures mean that risks from substances registered under REACH have significantly decreased. This trend is expected to continue as industry continues to work towards finding substitutes for the most hazardous chemicals.
Five years after REACH’s entry into force, companies have now registered 30,601 files with the European Chemicals Agency (ECHA), describing the uses and properties of 7,884 chemical substances manufactured or placed on the market.
Public opinion is still warm towards REACH and its effects, according to that Eurobarometer survey published today, mentioned above.
The REACH 5-Year Review upshot. The review concludes that while some adjustments are needed, no major overhaul is required. The main points to consider are as follows:
- The report makes recommendations to improve REACH implementation. These include improving the quality of registration dossiers, enhancing intelligent safety data sheet management as a central risk mitigation tool, and addressing issues related to cost sharing within Substance Information Exchange Forums (SIEFs).
- The report calls strongly on industry to improve the quality of dossiers submitted. Based on evidence gathered by ECHA relating to the identification of substances and determination of “sameness,” the Commission services will consider options to improve the situation, including legal measures.
- The Commission rules out any dramatic changes to the regulation of nanomaterials in the EU in 2013.
- There is insufficient information to decide now if certain types of polymers should be registered so no action is expected in 2013.
- There are no major overlaps with other EU legislation.
- Considerable efforts to develop alternative methods to animal testing have been made and will continue: since 2007, the Commission has made available € 330 million to fund research in this area.
- Enforcement could be improved. As this is the responsibility of the Member States, the report recommends that Member States reinforce coordination amongst them. See previous blog post on REACH penalties.
- Although the report identifies a need for some adjustments to the legislation, the EC wants to ensure legislative stability and predictability for European businesses. No changes to REACH’s main terms are proposed at present.
- The report recommends reducing the financial and administrative burden on SMEs in order to ensure the proportionality of legislation and to assist them to fulfil all their REACH obligations.
- To promote the competitiveness of the European chemical industry, the Commission will soon propose to reduce registration fees for SMEs.
Next steps. There are a few itemized next steps already moving forward:
- The Commission will discuss the outcomes of the REACH review with the Member States and stakeholders.
- In cooperation with Member States and ECHA, the Commission is developing a roadmap to assess and identify substances of very high concern (SVHC). It will set out clear milestones, deliverables and the pision of work between the Commission, Member States and ECHA to place all relevant SVHC on the candidate list by 2020.
- The Commission will also look into greater fee reductions to SMEs to spread the financial impact of registration more evenly.
- The next deadline under the REACH regulation is 31 May 2013, by when industry must register all phase-in substances manufactured or imported in the EU at or above 100 tonnes a year.
Background. REACH is the Regulation on Registration, Evaluation, Authorisation and restriction of CHemicals. The REACH review examines the overall operation of REACH and the attainment of its unique set of objectives – a high level of protection of human health and the environment, the promotion of alternative methods for assessment of hazards of substances, as well as the free circulation of substances on the internal market while enhancing competitiveness and innovation.
From 1999 to 2009 the EU chemical industry grew slightly higher than the average rate for all manufacturing sectors, and has largely recovered from the crisis of 2008. The industry generates a positive trade balance and is particularly well-performing in high margin sectors of specialty chemicals. In 2003, when REACH was proposed, the EU was the world’s largest chemicals market with approximately 30 % of global chemicals sales. Today it amounts to about 21 %, with China now being the largest chemicals market. However the EU remains the world’s largest exporter of chemicals and over recent years the industry’s turnover has increased in absolute terms.