New REACH breakthrough

15th of June 2010

The European Commission has broken the deadlock on setting criteria for identifying hazardous chemicals, requesting companies to table plans to substitute them even if no alternatives have been clearly identified.

Environment commissioner Janez Potocnik and industry commissioner Antonio Tajani announced they have found a common approach to identifying and managing Substances of Very High Concern (SVHCs).

The agreement clarifies the authorisation procedure for hazardous substances on socio-economic grounds. Under the REACH regulation, even if a substance presents a risk to human health or the environment, authorisation may be granted if the socio-economic benefits are proven to outweigh risks arising from its use and if there are no suitable alternatives.

Under the Commission's new procedure, "all available information is to be considered and will be used in a so-called 'weight of evidence approach'".

In addition, companies that have been unable to identify alternative solutions for a dangerous substance will have to show they have carried out in-depth investigations and must indicate a timeline within which alternative substances could become available.

Guidance to come

Now that this deadlock has been broken, the Commission says it will shortly give "the long-awaited draft guidance on authorisation" to the European Chemicals Agency (ECHA) - which is responsible for the implementation of REACH - to allow it to make progress on registering chemicals and managing SVHCs.

Meanwhile the ECHA has launched a new version of its online registration system REACH-IT. The system is now accompanied by a tool allowing companies to verify the technical completeness of a dossier before submitting it.

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