REACH is a European set of regulations that is concerned with the Registration, Evaluation and Authorisation of Chemicals. Basically the REACH regulations help protect people and the environment from the risks and the hazardous effects of chemicals being produced, distributed and for sale on the market. The manufacturers and the distributers are required to manage the risks of the chemical products they produce. Some substances are not regulated by REACH, these include radioactive materials, human and veterinary medicines, waste, food and substances at customs. These are regulated wholly or in part by a different set of regulations.
It is an obligation under REACH regulation to register with them if an entity is producing and distributing a chemical substance. This also applies to importers. REACH researches the properties and hazardous effects of chemicals. The authorities can decide to restrict or ban the use of products on the market. Each member country of REACH must appoint a competent authority (CA) to manage the enforcement within its country. It must ensure compliance, inspections, monitoring and penalties within its country/region. REACH requires that there is co-operation between member states.
In the UK, it is DEFRA who loads on the policy of REACH. Other REACH co-ordinators in the UK include the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills. The REACH Enforcement Regulations were established in 2008. These regulations are enforced by the HSE (and HSE Northern Ireland), the Environment Agency, the Department of Energy and Climate Change, the Scottish Environment Protection Agency, the Northern Ireland Environment Agency and Local Government Associations.
There are penalties for non-compliance with REACH regulations. Businesses that manufacture 1 tonne or more of chemicals per year are required to be registered with the European Chemicals Agency (ECHA), who manage REACH. ECHA help businesses comply with legislation. It is only the chemicals themselves that need to be registered, not the mixtures. Registration includes providing the technical information on the chemical and its hazards. Registration is based on tonnage and can take place over a number of years, however, the chemicals themselves need to be pre-registered from the beginning.
If a chemical substance is imported from outside the EU, the importer will need to register with the ECHA. Companies outside the EU cannot register chemicals themselves, but they can place an EU based representative to act on their behalf. If a manufacturer has not registered a chemical and a business is importing it, in most cases it will be illegal for the manufacturer and the importer to continue with the supply of that chemical. If certain substances are of very high concern, it may be the case that such substances will eventually be phased out from non-essential uses.