First introduced in 2007, REACH is arguably the most important eu regulation of the past 25 years, affecting all producers, importers and downstream users of chemicals in industries such as automotive and textile manufacturing. The legislation aims to protect human health and the environment and to encourage innovation in the chemicals industry by replacing hazardous chemicals with new, safer chemicals, but at a considerable cost. The European commission estimates this will cost the industry up to €5.2bn over 11 years. Other authorities put the figure as high as 12.8 billion.
Under REACH, all chemicals produced and imported in the eu must undergo comprehensive testing, such as carcinogenic, mutagenic or reproductive toxicity, and must be registered with the European chemicals agency (ECHA) in Helsinki. The process can take years and requires all companies that register the same substance to share data to limit animal testing and compensate each other financially. In the first registration phase in 2010, more than 1,000 tons of chemicals were produced or imported annually, with 3,400 registered and 20,000 files established. In 2018, when one to 100 tons of chemicals must be registered for import each year, an additional 25,000 substances and 70,000 records are expected.
Dipl.ing. Norbert Rudat, secretary of the EEIM, said: "this workload imposes a huge financial and administrative burden on the chemical industry, while also enabling many of our European electrical insulation manufacturers to import chemicals and produce their own formulations and electrical insulation products. Many companies, especially smaller ones, have gone out of business, probably just because of the costs involved."
There are also concerns about the supply of materials for electrical insulation manufacturers and their customers, including makers of motors, generators, transformers, white goods and consumer electronics. "We may not have access to conventional materials because of the approval results and schedule, so we need to find alternatives," he said.
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