The REACH Regulation (Regulation No. 1907/2006 of 18 December 2006) is the regulation on Registration, Evaluation, Authorisation, and Restriction of Chemicals (CHemicals).
Entered into force on 1 June 2007, its aim is to ensure a high level of protection for both human health and the environment with regard to chemicals, on their own (“substances”), as “mixtures” or contained in finished or semi-finished products (“articles”). In short, to be produced or imported into the European Economic Area, chemical substances must be registered by their manufacturers or importers according to a timetable based on tonnage placed on the market and dangerousness.
In concrete terms, REACH makes the chemical industry responsible for providing information about the dangers of their substances (intrinsic characteristics) and possible risks posed by their use. Adequate information on substances and mixtures is then communicated to their users, predominantly article manufacturers, via Safety Data Sheets (SDS, not to be confused with the FDES), whose content is regulated. The European Chemicals Agency (ECHA), centralises all the information and validates the files (“chemical safety assessment”). Later in the value chain, a similar obligation requires article manufacturers/suppliers to distribute information as follows:
- In a manufacturer-manufacturer relationship (B2B), they must inform their customers if the article sold contains more than 0.1% by weight of a substance on the “candidate” list, provide the name of this substance, and provide rules for how to use the article safely (article 33, paragraph 1),
- In a manufacturer-consumer relationship (B2C), they must provide the same information mentioned above for any article sold containing more than 0.1% by weight of a substance on the “candidate” list (article 33, paragraph 2), free of charge, to any consumer who requests it, within a maximum of 45 days of receiving the request.
The “candidate” list, which features the “very high concern” substances that may be subject to usage restrictions (see below), is updated every six months by the ECHA. The ECHA will gradually select substances from this list that are destined to either be taken off the European market or that will only be authorised for a clearly identified limited number of uses during a set time. These substances are added to “Annex XIV”, the first version of which was published on 18 February 2011. According to REACH, construction materials, products and equipment are:
- Mostly “articles”:
- that can only be manufactured from substances that are duly registered for said manufacture,
- that are subject to the obligations set out in Article 33 regarding information about the content of substances on the candidate list. Specific information provided in the FDES sheets.
- A minority of “mixtures” (cement, glue, etc.) for which Safety Data Sheets must be provided.