INSIGHT: Industry has a long way to go with Reach

01 June 2007 09:31  [Source: ICIS news]

By Nigel Davis


LONDON (ICIS news)--The European chemical industry has come a long way with Reach, the EU's new chemicals policy, but has a great deal further to go.


Reach represents a new, radical approach to chemicals control built more on the ‘precautionary principle’ than sound science. It will replace more than 40 separate pieces of legislation.


From the outset Reach has looked and sounded like a bureaucratic nightmare and unfortunately it is. Competent authorities across the European Union now are charged with helping make Reach work.


The burden on companies to pre-register and finally register many tens of thousands of substances over the next four years is immense. The practical implications of Reach compliance will soon come to the fore.


At first the costs of complying with Reach pre-registration and registration are likely to be significant. Reach requirements will demand a considerable amount of time from company participants and their legal and consultant advisors.


Europe’s chemical industry associations have established Reach advisory services – such as ReachCentrum, ReachReady and the Chemical Business Association’s ReFac. EU national competent authorities will help putting Reach registrants in touch with the right people at the right time.


Yet to be determined are the international and trade implications of the new rules and just who will be covered by what. Foreign companies as well as downstream users operating in the EU have yet to get to grips with the implications of Reach.


And it is not yet clear whether Reach will become the accepted model for global chemicals control. The EU would certainly like it to be.


Across the Atlantic, the US chemicals industry regards Reach as the worst thing to come out of Europe since the plague, an ill-conceived scheme that will infect US business and sicken global markets


Jack Gerard, president of the American Chemistry Council (ACC), argues that Reach first will undermine Europe’s own chemicals sector but then possibly migrate further.


Reach-like proposals appeared in nearly 80 state-level legislative initiatives last year.  Even though all but a few were defeated, Gerard says he expects some 150 local measures mimicking Reach to arise this year.


Even if the American chemicals industry can stop the Reach tide at US shores, they fear there will be no escaping the contagion in the global market.


“Reach will affect US companies broadly - even those that do not do business in Europe - by forcing changes in their market strategies, R&D and in product selection and substitutions,” Washington, DC-based attorney Robert Matthews, a specialist in chemicals regulation, says 


He contends that the new EU regulatory system will have worldwide impact because chemicals that in time will be banned in Europe and barred from products imported to European countries will affect production and use decisions around the world.


The EU has taken a great leap forward with Reach. In doing so it has been accused of putting its economy at risk by tilting the competitive playing field against its industrial and research base.


Reach will have a considerable impact on EU chemicals. Its greater impact may be wider still.


Joe Kamalick contributed to this article


By: Nigel Davis
+44 20 8652 3214

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