The commission’s five year review into the Reach regulation has found that the use of chemicals in the EU has become “considerably safer”.
The registration, evaluation, authorisation and restriction of chemicals regulation (Reach) came into force in 2007 and was hailed as a significant piece of environmental legislation by the former environment commissioner Stavros Dimas.
Part of the regulation requires the commission to review progress and publish a general report looking at its operation and whether it is meeting its main objectives.
The report, released on Tuesday, found that “Reach functions well and delivers on all objectives that at present can be assessed,” although it did highlight some areas which need to be improved.
These areas include improving transparency, increasing user-focused guidance and reviewing the fee regulation, to reduce the burden on small and medium enterprises (SMEs).
According to a public consultation carried out by the commission, Reach is considered to be one of the most “burdensome” pieces of EU legislation.
The European environment bureau (EEB) says that it supports efforts to “relieve SMEs of unnecessary administrative burden”, providing that commission does not jeopardise “the health, the environment and transparency”.
Meanwhile, Tatiana Santos, senior policy officer for chemicals at the EEB said, “It is deeply worrying that the commission decided to measure [European chemical agency] ECHA’s effectiveness by the number of papers shuffled, rather than by the number of dangerous carcinogenic substances taken off the EU market.”
“There are still just 138 very hazardous substances identified: far too few. In reality there are 1000 to 15,000 on the market.”
“The commission intended to include all of them in the candidate list by 2020, yet at this pace we will have to wait until 2060 to see a comprehensive list,” she added.
“Perilously little is known about the effects of nanomaterials,” Santos added, stressing that these are “manufactured at such low volumes that risk assessments are not required for them, they are simply unregulated”.
However, a Eurobarometer survey, ran by the commission, found that some progress had been made and 61 per cent of Europeans say that “chemicals on the EU market today are safer than 10 years ago”.
Greenpeace recognises that Reach “remains one of the most significant pieces of EU legislation relating to the protection of human health and the environment”.
However, in its Reach briefing, released prior to the commission’s review, Greenpeace highlighted some priorities of its own.
The NGO said that it would like the commission to “increase the number of chemicals on the candidate list destined for phase out”, “actively promote the substitution of hazardous chemicals” and promote more involvement from member states to ensure better screening by companies.
Written for theparliament.com