ECHA Study Finds Significant Benefits Result from Hazardous Chemical Substance Restrictions

In February 2021, the European Chemicals Agency (ECHA) released a report evaluating the impact of REACH restrictions. With particular focus on the period between 2016 and 2020, the report provides an overview of the costs and benefits of these restrictions. This blog post reviews the restriction process and looks at several of the report’s principal findings.

Restriction Process

As outlined by the ECHA, the restriction process for chemicals includes several key phases:

  • Phase 1: Preparation of a Proposal for Restriction
  • Phase 2A: Consultation(s)
  • Phase 2B: Opinion Development
  • Phase 3: Decision-making and Following Up

    • Phase 1 – General Steps

      • Restriction process is initiated by a relevant party (e.g., a Member State, the ECHA, the European Commission).
      • Relevant party issues a notification of its intention to prepare a restriction dossier.
      • Registry of Intentions specifies when a new restriction dossier is planned for submission.
      • Registration dossier is developed.
      • Following its preparation, the registration dossier is submitted, and the ECHA checks to ensure that it aligns with REACH requirements.

    • Phase 2A – General Steps

      • Restriction reports are included on the ECHA website; Relevant parties have the opportunity to provide feedback on them.
      • Opinions of the Committee for Risk Assessment (RAC) and the Committee for Socio-economic Assessment (SEAC) are published on the ECHA website; Comments may be provided on them accordingly.

    • Phase 2B – General Steps

      • Advice on restriction enforceability is provided to the RAC and SEAC by the Forum for Exchange of Information on Enforcement.
      • RAC prepares an opinion focused on whether the restriction is useful for risk reduction.
      • SEAC prepares a corresponding opinion.

    • Phase 3 – General Steps

      • European Commission issues a decision on the restriction.
      • Following its adoption, the restriction must be adhered to by industry.
      • Restriction must be enforced by corresponding Member States.

Benefits and Costs

A fundamental goal of REACH restriction is the protection of human health and the environment. Examining the costs and benefits of restrictions, the ECHA’s report noted several key findings.

Restrictions have the potential of preventing the environmental release of over 95,000 tons of harmful chemical emissions on an annual basis. Restricting the use of hazardous chemicals, and the resultant decrease in human exposure, can reduce the incidence of associated illnesses (including cancer). Annual health-related cost benefits to humans are estimated at 2.1 billion Euros, or roughly 2.5 billion dollars (more than 4 times the associated costs).

Detailed information on the benefits and costs associated with REACH restrictions may be found by reviewing the complete report.

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