REACH authorisation has positive health and environmental impacts
The EU-wide requirement for companies to obtain authorisation from the European Commission before using harmful chemicals has sped up substitution and reduced risks to people’s health and the environment - at a reasonable cost.
Helsinki, 13 January 2021 – According to ECHA’s study on the Socio-economic impacts of REACH authorisations, the authorisation requirement has pushed companies to move away from using substances of very high concern (SVHCs).
Out of 54 chemicals subject to authorisation, the use of almost half has stopped altogether in the EU. Furthermore, the review of existing authorisations shows that even where the use of some chemicals has continued, use volumes have reduced by 97 %. This indicates that uses of authorised chemicals have been extensively replaced.
Where replacing a harmful chemical is not yet feasible, the study estimates the societal benefits of authorising SVHC uses to be almost 20 times greater than the remaining health risks. The benefits relate to the availability of products and services, business maintenance and jobs within the EU.
The authorisation requirement, together with conditions recommended by ECHA’s scientific committees, has helped reduce the risks of continued use of SVHCs to people’s health and the environment. For example, workers’ exposure to hexavalent chromium has lowered, reducing cancer risk in workplaces and helping to meet the requirements of occupational health and safety legislation. In addition, emissions of ethoxylated nonyl- and octylphenols, which are endocrine disrupting chemicals, are projected to decrease by more than 90 % over the next 12 years.
The report has also updated the estimated costs of EU companies applying for authorisation, which amount to close to €200 000 per use applied for, or to €7-9 million for all applications in an average year.
Peter van der Zandt, Director for Risk Management says: “We have analysed over 200 authorisation applications from industry and can see that the authorisation requirement has positive effects on our health and the environment. It has advanced substitution of harmful chemicals and helped to control their risks, while ensuring that European companies can remain competitive.”
Under REACH, authorising uses of hazardous chemicals and restricting their placement on the market are two powerful instruments to manage chemical risks. Although their mechanisms work differently, they complement each other to protect health, safeguard the environment and ensure that companies can operate on a level playing field. A separate report on the Costs and benefits of REACH restrictions will be published in mid-February.
Authorisation under the regulation on Registration, Evaluation, Authorisation and Restriction of Chemicals (REACH) aims to ensure good functioning of the internal market while ensuring that the risks from substances of very high concern are properly controlled and that these substances are progressively replaced by safer alternatives where these are economically and technically viable.
The study published today presents ECHA’s analysis on the impacts of authorisation. It is based on data and knowledge gathered in the authorisation process during 2010-2020.