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European Chemical Rules and Regulations: Part 1

The European Union (EU) recently proposed chemical rules and regulations that aim to make Environment, Health and Safety Management (EHS) work environments safer and healthier. 

chemical regulations and rule changes

Rules to chemical changes in the EU—such as REACH (Registration, Evaluation, Authorization and Restriction of Chemicals) which became effective in 2007 and CLP (Classification, Labelling and Packaging) which became effective in 2009—make manufacturers give specific details about the chemicals they use in their products to make sure they are safe to handle and use.

Below, in part one of a two-part blog series, we highlight important information to know and talk about frequently discussed topics. 

First, here are just some recent activities and agencies to be aware of: 

  • Proposed plastics ban: The European Chemicals Agency (ECHA) is an agency of the EU. Its main responsibility is to manage the registration, evaluation, authorization, and restriction of chemical substances in the EU under the REACH Regulation. In February of 2023, ECHA released a proposal to ban the use of nearly 10,000 per-and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS)—also called “forever chemicals” in the EU. PFAS are very common and found in things like solar panels, medical devices, and wind turbines. Exposure to them has been linked to health problems such as liver damage, immunity issues, and cancer.
  • Proposal to curb emissions: Also in February of 2023, ECHA published a PFAS restriction proposal. The goal is to reduce PFAS emissions and make products and processes safer. A six-month open consultation began on March 22, 2023.
  • Updated chemicals list: ECHA added nine new chemicals to its Candidate List in January of 2023. These chemicals are found in things like flame retardants, paper manufacturing, and paints that pose risks to customers, consumers, and the people who help make them.
  • Push for safer equipment: The Über diese Initiative aims to make current EU rules that limit the use of harmful substances in electrical and electronic equipment. This proposed ban extends to EU product imports involving PFAS. For context, notably, in 2022 alone, U.S. companies exported nearly $350 billion in goods to the EU.

Impact of Regulations and Rule Changes

Chemical manufacturers and other manufacturing companies that use chemicals to make products like paint, cosmetics, ink, and paper will be impacted by these rules. Of course, all companies utilizing hazardous chemicals must ensure products they acquire are safe and pose no harm. 

What manufacturers need to do next depends on what industry they serve and what specific chemicals they use and handle. For example, manufacturers may need to reconsider which chemicals their workers and consumers encounter and use will spark non-compliance. This can be costly and time-consuming.  

They may also need to invest in new testing methods and data collection to ensure compliance. 

Going deeper, rules for chemical changes in the EU can have a global impact on companies and organizations that deal with chemicals. Regulations have the potential to influence the development of similar regulations in other countries. REACH and CLP, for instance, can impact companies and organizations around the world that export chemicals or chemical-containing products to the EU, as well as companies within the EU that export their products to other countries. 

Impacts will span a wide range of companies and organizations across various industries that deal with chemicals. Some examples are chemical manufacturers, importers and exporters, downstream users, and retailers. 

U.S.-based companies with EU industrial or business interests should be aware of how evolving regulations and rules may impact their business. 

For more information about our chemical register module, visit https://www.sai360.com/solutions/ehs. 

And stay tuned for part two of our series where we will discuss how compliance strengthens organizational operations, which non-compliance consequences demand addressing, and how technology can improve the situation.

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