Enforcement for the European Union’s (EU) REACH – the Regulation on Registration, Evaluation, Authorisiation [sic] and Restriction of Chemicals – regulations began on June 1, 2007, to control chemical manufacturing. Under these new protocols, existing chemicals, when there is evidence of concern, are identified as Substances of Very High Concern (SVHC). These trigger immediate reporting requirements to the European Chemicals Agency (ECHA) and then may be banned until safety is established.
The SVHC list is continuously changing, with new substances added several times per year. More than 1,000 of these SVHCs are expected to be on the list by 2020. EU REACH also has a restrictions list that allows certain substances to be used only for specified purposes. ECHA provides and maintains IUCLID (International Uniform Chemical Information Database), a software application provided free that captures, stores, maintains and exchanges data on intrinsic and hazard properties of chemical substances.
These regulations are far-reaching. As the SVHC list regularly changes, it could become a trade barrier by potentially forcing U.S. equipment manufacturers to redesign their products or be banned from the EU marketplace, according to the Association of Equipment Manufacturers (AEM) EU REACH Equipment Brief.
“In addition, as materials and substances are identified in the EU as SVHCs, this knowledge of their toxicity is now public information,” says John Wagner, AEM director of materials management. “If these substances are used in construction projects, contractors may have potential legal liability for their impact.”
To ensure exports can continue, AEM suggests three important steps: Manufacturers need to become aware what substances are restricted, banned or require notification; identify the substance content of all materials used; and eliminate use of these chemicals through redesign.
REACH is changing the regulatory environment and making it more onerous. Like Tier 4 regulations, these EU regulations may increase manufacturing costs, which will most certainly be passed on to the end-user. This will affect contractor costs and make everything more difficult and expensive to buy and use.
We all want to protect the environment. But, we don’t want to be overregulated where it’s going to cost jobs and make it impossible to get the equipment we need. The repercussions from REACH are potentially more damaging than anyone has acknowledged. As the nation is recovering from the severe economic recession, we can’t afford any impairment. (For a glossary of REACH terms, go to page 6 on aem.org/pdf/2013-10_EU-REACH-executive-brief.pdf.)
Correction: In the December 2013 issue of Better Roads’ “Transportation Talk,” Gov. Bob McDonnell was misidentified as governor of Pennsylvania. Gov. Tom Corbett is the current governor of Pennsylvania. McDonnell is the governor of Virginia. We apologize for the error.