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REACH (regulatory framework for chemicals)

The "REACH" system establishes a single regulatory framework for the registration, evaluation and authorisation of chemicals. The aim is to ensure greater safety in the manufacture and use of chemical substances.

REACH will require operators to gather full information on the properties of substances of which they manufacture or import at least one tonne per year and to demonstrate safety of use. Previous legislation required the authorities of the Member States to prove the existence of a risk in order to ban a substance. This reversal of the burden of proof allows the procedure to be more effective.

This information must then be sent to the European Chemicals Agency created for the purpose. The Agency, located in Helsinki, will manage registration of the substances by setting up a database. Unregistered substances may not be manufactured in the European Union or imported into the EU market.

The authorities of the Member States assess the registration dossiers and the substances giving cause for concern. They are also responsible for granting or refusing authorisations for substances posing a risk to health or the environment. Restrictions remain possible for certain dangerous substances, but the procedure will henceforth be simpler.

Adopted at the end of 2006, the REACH system replaces 40 previous legislative acts. Under the previous legislation, chemicals placed on the market before 1981 (nearly 99% of those now in circulation) were not subject to testing. Moreover, since it was unduly slow, the previous procedure penalised innovation and the replacement of substances available on the market.

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