French study evaluates consequences of REACH legislation

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: European union

The impact on the French chemicals industry of implementing the
European Union's REACH (Registration, Evaluation and Authorisation
of Chemicals) proposals could be as high €800 million in testing
alone and lead to the loss of 360,000 jobs, according to a new
study.

The research, carried out by Mercer Management Consulting on behalf of the French chemical industry federation (UIC), also suggest that the consequences of REACH could be widespread across France's industrial base, having a negative effect of 1.6 per cent on the country's Gross Domestic Product (GDP) - equivalent to €28 billion - in 10 years.

REACH was adopted by the European Commission in October 2003, and requires companies to register the chemicals they use in volumes of over 1 tonne, with a sliding scale of toxicological and other testing data required depending on the volumes produced.

Among the Mercer​ study conclusions are that the complexity of the regulations will make it hard for companies, and especially small and medium size enterprises (SMEs), to comply.

This could drive some companies out of business, while the chemical substances could disappear and require substitution and reformulations which, with the increase in costs, will favour the relocation of production and will slow down the innovation in new products, according to the UIC.

"Each time, the competitiveness and the innovation capacity of companies will be weakened faced with a global competition with no such restrictions,"​ it said.

The UIC​ has concluded that the calendar for implementing REACH is unrealistic and that testing requirements should be based on exposure and proportional to the risks involved with a chemical, rather than on volumes.

Furthermore, the group believes that there should be a sequential implementation process for REACH (registration, followed by evaluation and then authorisation), extending the period for these processes rather than implementing all of them at the same time.

For its part, the EC says that REACH is necessary because the current legislative framework for chemicals is inadequate, and has not produced sufficient information about the effects of chemicals on human health and the environment. Moreover, where risks are identified, it maintains, the current system is slow to assess them and introduce risk management measures.

"These shortcomings have potentially put human health and the environment at risk,"​ claims the Commission, adding that the current system has also hampered research and innovation, causing the EU chemicals industry to lag behind its counterparts in the US and Japan.

It estimates that the overall costs to the chemicals industry and its downstream users would then be €2.8 - €5.2 billion over an 11-year period.

Animal rights groups on the march

Meanwhile, the REACH programme has also been attacked by animal rights groups which are alarmed that it will lead to a dramatic increase in the number of experiments carried out on animals. At demonstrations outside the Chemicals Industry Association (CEFIC) in Brussels, Belgium, the groups called for more effort to be spent on finding alternatives to animals in toxicity testing.

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