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28. Jan 2021 | Legislation

REACH: Large task, large benefits

Jan Gesthuizen

The registration of chemicals under REACH has been a big task for the chemical industry as a whole - and of course for the coatings industry. However, REACH has had many positive effects. As a recent study by ECHA shows, the use of harmful substances in Europe has declined substantially.

ECHA Headquarter
The ECHA headquarter in Helsinki Finland.
Source: European Chemicals Agency

If a substance becomes a candidate for authorisation under REACH, this is rarely good news for the industry. Long established substances have to be replaced, formulations have to be adapted and, in many cases, a company has to spend substantial manpower and money to reinvent a working product.

However, the European Union established REACH to protect human health and the environment and a recent study by the European Chemicals Agency (ECHA) now shows that the use of harmful substances has indeed declined significantly. Out of 54 substances subject to authorisation, the use of almost half has stopped altogether in the EU.

Large volumes declining

For 15 of the 54 SVHCs in the authorisation list, ECHA has not received applications. Moreover, the agency projects that for nine substances no applications will be received. This suggests that for 24 substances of very high concern (SVHCs) usages that require authorisation no longer exist in the EU. Another finding of the study is that applications for small annual volumes have become more frequent while large volumes are declining.

Of course, there are cases where one can argue that a substance should not be subject to authorisation or that a classification of substances could be too harsh or wrong. Especially in the coatings industry, the long and hard fight against a classification of titanium dioxide is well known. However, as the study shows, the authorisation process clearly has its benefits.

Read the full study here.

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