INSIGHT: Quiet panic as Reach registrations run slow

08 February 2010 17:45  [Source: ICIS news]

By Nigel Davis

LONDON (ICIS news)--“Panic is beginning to set in,” says Jo Lloyd, director of UK-based advisory group ReachReady. Concerns are increasing about the ability of producers, distributors and importers of chemicals into the EU to meet the next, critical Reach deadline.

High-production-volume chemicals have to be registered under Reach by 1 December 2010. It is widely hoped that the majority of substance registrations that fall into this category will be lodged with the European Chemicals Agency, the ECHA, well before that date.

The feeling of panic extends to the European Commission, EU trade groups and the ECHA, Lloyd suggests.

Back in September, the ECHA was voicing its concern that there would be a rush of substance registrations running close to the first Reach full registration deadline.

Little seems to have changed since then other than the tenor of cries for action.

Many of the substance information exchange forums (SIEFs), through which most Reach registrations will be made, appear to be dormant - either that or little is known about them.

And at times it seems as if no-one, including the ECHA, knows what is happening.

In September, the agency showed on its website that it had the details of 1,500 SIEFs. Its director, Geert Dancet, wanted to know about 4,000 by the year end.

But by Monday, the number shown was just 2,600. Producing and distributing companies and others are said to be working hard on Reach but there is scant direct evidence that they are doing so.

It is still difficult to tell who is going to register this year, says Lloyd, but the number of registration in 2010 could approach 9,000. Registration is the first key step in Reach, the legislation that will ultimately provide a base level of health and safety data on all chemicals sold in the EU.

ReachReady talks to a number of SIEFs but it is not clear whether the ECHA has details of all these groups.

“We haven’t gone fast enough,” says Lloyd. And she worries that many companies will miss the critical Reach registration deadline. If they do they will not be in compliance with the law and will be unable to sell the non-registered substance in the EU.

Clearly, there are many SIEFs that ReachReady has not heard from and substances that will go through the Reach process that few know about. But the uncertainty is increasing tension.

Three years is too short a time to implement effectively a vast regulation like Reach. Both industry participants and the regulators are learning as they go. But the spectre of non-compliance is being raised, the fall-out from which can only, at this stage, be guessed at.

Companies are at last beginning to ascertain the cost of Reach compliance - and some are believed to be thinking that it’s just not worth it.

Reach applies down long product chains. And customers are having to get to know suppliers and vice versa, along many steps in the chain.

In some cases, companies are just sitting tight, and no-one is taking the lead, Lloyd believes. But she suggests that the greatest pressure on chemicals suppliers is from customers, often way down the chain, asking about Reach compliance.

Some retailers have been at the forefront, keen to cover themselves and their products by complying with the law. “For most suppliers the problems of Reach are with customers and not with the regulator,” Lloyd says.

Reach activity is gearing up on the regulatory front. Already 29 substances have been placed on a ‘candidate list’ for authorisation. This means that they must be fully tested and approved for sale by regulatory authorities in the member states.

“We are recommending that if you have an authorisable substance you should try to phase it out,” says Lloyd. If such advice is heeded it looks as though the number of suppliers of some chemicals will drop sharply.

Reach evaluation and authorisation has yet to be set in motion but both the Commission and NGOs (non-governmental organisations) talk of around 350 chemicals that are likely to be put through this process. They will fall on the candidate list and effectively be blacklisted.

The headaches of Reach are mounting but the advice of Lloyd and others is to get registrations in as soon as possible. The strain to be put on the ECHA online registration systems cannot really yet be estimated but is likely to be significant, and will only get worse towards the December deadline.

Visit the Reach Group pages on ICIS connect


By: Nigel Davis
+44 20 8652 3214



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