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Revising REACH to achieve a toxic free environment in Europe
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Chemical mixtures on the table when the REACH regulation is being revised

To reach zero pollution of chemicals, the rules governing the registration, evaluation, authorisation, and restriction of chemicals in the EU – the REACH regulation – must be revised. Amie Svärd, economist at the European Commission, is involved in the work. In a recent FRAM Seminar, she presented problems with the current regulation and what the Commission is planning to do about it.

The European Green Deal sets out the ambition to reach zero pollution for a toxic-free environment. As part of this ambition, the chemicals strategy for sustainability announces actions to better protect people and the environment against hazardous chemicals and to encourage innovation to develop safe and sustainable alternatives.

Achieving these goals requires revising the rules governing the registration, evaluation, authorisation, and restriction of chemicals in the EU, i.e., the REACH regulation.

In a recent FRAM Seminar, Amie Svärd was invited to talk about the recently started revision of REACH. Amie Svärd is an economist in the REACH Unit at the European Commission’s Directorate-General for Internal Market, Industry, Entrepreneurship and SMEs (DG GROW) since February 2019. Her work includes implementing the socio-economic aspects in REACH authorisations and restrictions, as well as carrying out the impact assessment for the revision of REACH.

In October 2020, the new EU Chemicals Strategy for Sustainability was launched and with that, a new phase in the EU policy cycle started. The policy cycle starts with the preparation phase, is followed by the adoption and implementation phases, and ends with the application phase – before the cycle starts again. In the seminar, Amie Svärd focused on the preparation phase and the impact assessment. The impact assessment looks at impacts on human health, environment, investment and innovation, costs and opportunities for companies, and the administrative burden. But the overall goal is set.

"We are working towards that all hazardous substances should be substituted to less dangerous ones", said Amie Svärd.

Firstly, Amie presented a series of problems with the current REACH regulation. One of the problems is that combination effects of chemicals are not considered.

"Humans and the environment are exposed to many different substances from many different sources. A safe use of one substance is not safe against combination effects."

To take care of the identified problems, the European Commission includes a number of options in the impact assessment. When it comes to avoiding combination effects of chemicals, it is proposed to introduce either a generic Mixture Assessment Factor or different Mixture Assessment Factors for health and the environment, for different types of hazards, or for different groups of substances.

The revision of REACH is still in the preparation phase. At the moment, several studies to assess impact are ongoing. The next step includes making interviews, targeted surveys, and consultations with different stakeholder and the public. By the end of 2022, a final revision of REACH is planned to be presented. The FRAM Centre will follow-up on this work in the future.

 

Read more: How the EU's new chemicals strategy relates to chemical mixtures