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Consumers will soon be afforded better protection against dangerous chemicals

05/2007, 22.05.2007

BfR brochure provides information on the new European chemicals legislation - REACH

Chemicals are part of our daily lives. Whether it is a household cleaning product, a component in babies’ nappies or a plasticiser in plastics - people constantly come into contact with chemicals. Chemical compounds reach the body from the air we breathe, the food we eat or through contact with our skin. In most cases this is not a problem but in some it is. The new European Chemicals Regulation "REACH", which enters into force on 1 June 2007, therefore aims to afford consumers and the environment greater protection against dangerous substances and preparations. The brochure "REACH - The New Chemicals Policy in Europe", published by the Federal Institute for Risk Assessment (BfR) in time for the entry into force of the Regulation, outlines in detail the changes it will lead to for consumers. It gives interested persons a detailed overview of the basics of chemical safety and the new chemicals legislation.

“REACH” stands for the Registration, Evaluation and Authorisation of Chemicals. Both consumers and workers exposed to chemicals will benefit from the new Regulation. REACH assigns far greater responsibility to industry for the safe handling of its products. Between 2007 and 2018 manufacturers and importers must gradually register the 30,000 chemicals on the market and their uses with the new European Agency for Chemical Substances in Helsinki. This means that manufacturers will now have to assess the risks of their chemicals. To this end, they must first evaluate the safety of dangerous substances and document their results. Highly dangerous substances must go through an authorisation procedure. The general expectation is, therefore, that these substances will be replaced in the long term by less dangerous ones.

Furthermore, in future manufacturers will also have to prove that the substances they use do not jeopardise the health of consumers and back this claim by submitting comprehensive data. But REACH has its limitations, too. These provisions do not apply to all substances. The duty to inform consumers about risks has been considerably extended but it is not always applicable. The monitoring of imported products for possible risks will still be incomplete.

The new BfR brochure explains what exact changes this new Regulation will bring for consumers from 1 June. It draws on examples to give an overview of the prior and future chemicals legislation, labelling provisions and test methods. Modern methods involving no animal experiments must be taken into account, some of which were developed at BfR.

The brochure is intended for interested consumers and multipliers. The most important aspects of REACH for consumers are described in easily comprehensible language and illustrated by means of graphs and tables. The brochure is free of charge and can be ordered from the BfR Press and Public Relations Office by email (pressestelle@bfr.bund.de) or by fax on 030-8412-4970).

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