Many of us active in chemical regulation compliance started from a rather traditional view that ECHA was concerned only with compliance. Over the years since the start of the REACH Regulation it has become increasingly clear that ECHA has a much broader view of how it wants to fulfil its mandate.

In July 2020 a press release and two associated reports have set out clearly how ECHA sees its role in respect of safer chemistry. The June 2020 presentation by ECHA’s Executive Director Bjorn Hansen provides a brief and direct statement of that vision. See this video on YouTube

With ECHA’s clear desire to increase pressure on substances with particular hazard profiles, it seems timely to state again GCD’s belief that the future lies in low-hazard chemistries.

Some extracts from press release ECHA/NR/20/25 now follow (full text is here)

While restrictions and authorisation directly encourage European industry to substitute harmful chemicals, ECHA’s support for substitution has also played a role. ECHA’s twopublished reports uncover both the direct and indirect effects of REACH in driving substitution.

Impacts of REACH restrictions and authorisation on substitution in the EU [PDF][EN]

The report outlines a combination of technical, economic and market barriers that companies face when substituting – including difficulties in finding technically-feasible alternatives, a lack of financial incentive and a reduced competitive advantage. Companies do, however, see decreases in worker exposure and emissions to the environment as the main benefits of substitution.

Report on substitution-supporting activities in 2018-2019 and focus in 2020-21 [PDF][EN]

ECHA’s report on substitution-supporting activities with a focus on 2020-21 describes how ECHA has helped and intends to help companies overcome these barriers.

The progressive substitution of substances of very high concern (SVHCs) with suitable alternatives is one of three key objectives of the REACH authorisation title.

Substitution also contributes to the overarching EU objectives for a non-toxic environment and a circular economy by progressively replacing harmful substances with more sustainable alternatives.

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