New European chemicals agency starts operations as REACH enters into force

The new European chemicals legislation, REACH (Registration, Evaluation, Authorisation and restrictions of Chemicals) enters into force on 1 June, and with it the new European Chemicals Agency starts operations in Helsinki. The REACH regulation shall significantly improve protection of human health and the environment while encouraging innovation and keeping the EU's chemical industry competitive. The Agency, which is responsible for managing the implementation of the new requirements, will launch a website providing key information such as guidance documents, helpdesks and other tools relating to REACH. Starting on 1 June 2007, the Agency will have to work hard to become fully operational on 1 June 2008, when companies will begin on-line submission of pre-registrations and registration dossiers. The Agency's Interim Executive Director is Mr. Geert Dancet, who has been seconded by the Commission to head the team which will get the Agency started.

Commission Vice President Günter Verheugen, responsible for enterprise and industry, said: "The Chemicals Agency will play a key role in the effective implementation of REACH, helping to deliver improved health, and environmental conditions while at the same time maintaining competitiveness and encouraging innovation. The valuable support from Finland in the establishment of the Agency in Helsinki is much appreciated".

One of the Agency's first tasks is to make sufficient information available to companies - especially Small- and Medium-Sized enterprises (SMEs) - on how to comply with the new requirements. For this purpose the Agency is launching a multilingual website. The website serves as a single access point for general information on chemicals, guidance documents and other tools on how to comply with the REACH legislation. From 1 June 2008 it will also provide an interface for on-line registration of substances.

Companies will also have access to a helpdesk through the site. The Agency helpdesk is connected to a network of national REACH helpdesks, many of which are already operational and actively disseminating information on the new Regulation through workshops, brochures and websites.

For the first 18 months some 40 officials have been seconded from the European Commission to help with setting up the Agency. They will play a key role in training the new staff and building up the operational structure.