REACH compliance: the time is now for US companies

By Simon Pitman

- Last updated on GMT

Darren Abrahams, Steptoe & Johnson
Darren Abrahams, Steptoe & Johnson

Related tags: Chemical substance, Chemistry

As the deadlines for the next phases of the European chemical regulation REACH get ever nearer, Cosmetics Design spoke to a lawyer specialized in helping US companies fulfill the requirements.

Invariably the starting point is to ask, ‘what is in my cosmetic formulation​?’”said Darren Abrahams, an English barrister who is a partner in the Brussels office ​of international law firm Steptoe & Johnson.”

Answering that question can be difficult because of the complexity of the supply chain and the fact that there is often reluctance for up-stream suppliers to reveal the necessary information​.”

In his practice Abrahams covers the entire supply chain, from raw material suppliers, to ingredients manufacturers and some of the leading finished goods players on the market.  

Compliance with REACH phase two

Abrahams explained that right now, one of the most pressing issues is to ensure compliance with the second phase of REACH, which is due at the end of May, 2013.

If companies have not already started the registration procedure, they should get the ball rolling now as the time-frame necessary to obtain full compliance is already looking narrow​,” Abrahams said.

The registration deadline for phase one of REACH was in 2010 and focused on first tier substances - with annual production/importation volumes greater than 1,000 tonnes or 100 – 1,000 tonnes or all CMR 1&2 substances above 1 tonne.

The 2013 registration deadline concerns substances of between 100 and 1,000 tonnes, while the third phase has a 2018 deadline and concerns 200 substances in the band of 1 – 100 tonnes per year.

Current phase mainly concerns small- to medium-sized companies

What these outstanding deadlines underline is the fact that these phases of REACH mainly concern small- to medium-sized companies who do not have either the resources or the experience to deal with this kind of procedure​,” said Abrahams.

However, stressing the size of this undertaking, it should be noticed that even some of the larger companies have had to outsource significant amounts of the compliance process in an effort to meet deadlines​.

Abrahams went on to explain about how the mechanism of REACH compliance is made even more difficult for non-European companies due to the fact that they are unable to register for REACH individually, a factor that necessitates a registration partner.

However, that is not to say that the entire process is out of companies hands. This is an interdisciplinary process that requires a team effort​,”he said.

Costs soon add up

The process is not only lengthy, but costly too. Abrahams indicated that registration for each chemical substance is approximately US$10,000 in fees to the European Chemicals Agency plus substantial data access fees.

It is difficult to estimate how much the additional costs might be, as that is relevant to the complexity of each specific case. This could range from anything like a few thousand dollars to the millions range."

And Abrahams biggest tip for ensuring a smoother path to REACH compliance?

You can never start early enough. Never underestimate the magnitude of the undertaking. Likewise, people need to be empowered in an effort to get the process rolling, which invariably means significant involvement at the boardroom level​.”

Steptoe & Johnson have a comprehensive resource centre to help companies navigate some of the complexities of REACH, which can be accessed by clicking here. http://www.steptoe.com/reach

Related topics: Regulation & Safety

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