All news

Restricting hazardous chemicals protects millions of Europeans from serious diseases


EU-wide restrictions protect the health of citizens by reducing risks of serious illness such as cancers, sexual development disorders, asthma and skin allergies. They also prevent 100 000 tonnes of chemicals from polluting the environment every year.

Helsinki, 16 February 2021 – Restricting the manufacture and use of chemicals that pose a risk in the EU results in health benefits worth around €2.1 billion each year over the next decades. This is what ECHA estimates in its new study on the Costs and benefits of REACH restrictions. The health benefits include, for example, reduced risk of cancers, sexual development disorders, occupational asthma and allergic skin or respiratory diseases. As the associated costs to society add up to €0.5 billion per year, the health benefits are four times greater than the costs.

Once all restrictions included in the study take effect, at least seven million EU citizens will be less exposed to harmful chemicals at work or in their everyday life. For example, there are five million people already sensitised to harmful chemicals in finished textile and leather articles. Limiting the use of skin sensitising chemicals in these articles will prevent allergic reactions for many of them and additionally protect up to 180 000 people each year from becoming sensitised in the first place. This is expected to result in health benefits of at least €708 million a year.

Restrictions are also estimated to prevent more than 95 000 tonnes of hazardous substances from being released into the environment every year. For example, the proposed restriction on intentionally added microplastics would prevent 500 000 tonnes of microplastic from being released to the environment over the next 20 years. Reduced emissions bring multiple benefits to all EU citizens, such as a cleaner environment and reduced chemical exposure through drinking water, food and air.

The estimated costs of the restrictions related to environmental risks amount to €1.2 billion a year. Most of these costs would be incurred as companies need to replace their restricted chemicals with safer ones or alternative technologies.

Peter van der Zandt, Director for Risk Management concludes: “REACH restrictions are a powerful and effective way to control the risks of chemicals at EU level and drive substitution. This study shows that societal benefits of restrictions are considerably higher than the associated costs. Together with classification and labelling and REACH authorisation, restrictions form the backbone of regulating harmful chemicals in the EU – protecting our citizens and the environment.”


Restrictions under the regulation on Registration, Evaluation, Authorisation and Restriction of Chemicals (REACH) protect human health and the environment from unacceptable risks posed by hazardous chemicals. They can limit the manufacturing and use of chemicals or ban their placement on the EU market. They can also be used to control imports of hazardous chemicals.

The study published today presents ECHA’s analysis on the impacts of REACH restrictions proposed in 2016-2020. It also aggregates the overall impact of restrictions by including the findings of the first costs and benefits of restrictions report published in 2016.

In January, a similar report on the Socio-economic impacts of REACH authorisations was published.