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Agreement on chemicals regulation

EU politicians have come a stage closer to a Europe-wide agreement on chemical handling in the workplace.

At the European Competitiveness Council yesterday, member states reached an agreement on REACH, the new chemicals regulation, paving the way for the council and the European Parliament to deliver a final joint agreement next year.

Lord Sainsbury, who chaired the council, and Lord Bach, who represented the UK, said in a statement: "REACH will provide the tools necessary to provide detailed information on some 30,000 substances used in the EU, while strengthening the controls covering the substances of most concern. This will allow for a huge leap forward in our awareness of the impact of chemicals and other substances and so ensuring the highest level of protection for European citizens.

"At the same time, the changes made by the Council significantly reduce the burden on SMEs and put further measures in place to encourage data sharing and minimise testing."

The key changes agreed by the Council to the Commission's original REACH proposal are:

Registration:

  • Reduced information requirements on 1-10 tonne substances, except for substances presenting clear risks (e.g. classified as dangerous and having a wide dispersive use in consumer applications)
  • Increased scope for waiving of tests for 10-100 tonne substances on grounds of minimal exposure
  • Requirement for registrants of same substance to share core data, allowing costs to be spread and duplicate testing avoided.

    Evaluation:

  • New EU chemicals Agency given responsibility for co-ordinating and driving forward dossier and substance evaluation.

    Authorisation:

  • All authorisations to be subject to review
  • Greater encouragement for companies to seek safer alternatives.

    Scope:

  • Waste exempted entirely from REACH
  • Minerals, ores, concentrates and several other substances and categories of substance exempted from registration and evaluation
  • Commission to review scope of registration and evaluation within 12 months of REACH implementation.

    The Council and the European Parliament will now undertake a second reading of REACH in 2006, in consultation with the Commission, through which all three institutions will seek to agree a final package.

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