What Is REACH?
REACH stands for Registration, Evaluation, Authorization and restriction of CHemicals. A global increase of rare illnesses has caused the world to be more cautious of products used in the home and work place. With this awareness, agencies have been set up to monitor and control the substances that are used in manufacturing, as well as impose fines on companies that violate the laws.
In the electronic component industry, there are two key agencies: RoHS (Restriction of Hazardous substances) and REACH, which was created to cover substances that were not covered by the six substances of the RoHS Directive. More specifically, REACH deals with the restriction of chemicals that are released into the environment that may cause harm to the human body and animals in the future. REACH regulations were put in place on June 1, 2007, and have expanded to cover 46 substances, and counting.
Companies that manufacture or import one (1) ton or more of a chemical substance annually will be required to register it in a central database at the European Chemicals Agency (ECHA).
Registration. The registration procedure involves submitting a technical dossier containing information on the substance and guidance on how to handle it safely.
Evaluation. Evaluation allows regulatory authorities to determine if further testing is needed and to assess whether information provided by industry complies with the requirements (dossier evaluation).
Authorization. Substances of very high concern are subject to an authorization procedure. Companies who apply for authorization need to show that the risks posed by those substances are adequately controlled. The aim is to give industry the incentive to progressively substitute these substances with safer materials. Substances of very high concern include the following:
- Carcinogens, mutagens, or toxic to the reproductive system, categories 1 and 2
- Substances which are persistent, bio-accumulative, and toxic
- Very persistent, and very bio-accumulative
- Or of equivalent concern
Restrictions. Restrictions are the safety net of the system. Any substance on its own, in a preparation, or in an article, may be subject to community-wide restrictions if its use poses unacceptable risks to health or to the environment. Substances in articles which are on the “candidate list of substances of very high concern” will need to be reported to the European Chemicals Agency starting June 1, 2011.
Exempted Substances. Some chemicals that have been exempted and excluded from registration include:
- Noble gases and cellulose pulp
- Substances naturally occurring such as minerals, ores, and ore concentrate (as long as they are not chemically modified)
- Substances in food and medicinal products as they are covered by other specific legislation
- Substances used for defense purposes
Chemical substances used to manufacture other chemical substances are called intermediates. If manufactured and used inside a closed system, they are generally exempt from REACH (non-isolated intermediates). Products such as construction material, electronic components, toys, or vehicles are covered by REACH if they contain substances intentionally released. These substances need to be registered.
Benefits Of The New REACH Regulation
The primary benefit of REACH is that it systematically identifies the hazards and risks of chemicals. This allows companies to identify and communicate appropriate risk management measures through the supply chain. Better knowledge of chemicals and more efficient communication on risk management measures will contribute to the prevention of health problems caused by exposure to chemicals. This is expected to lead to a lower occurrence of occupational diseases and preventable deaths, thus lowering costs to national health systems. The benefits will come gradually as more and more substances are assessed under REACH. More details can be found at the European Commission's website. If you have any questions about Panasonic's electronic components, or generally about REACH, please use the comments section.