On December 4, 2019, European Chemicals Agency (ECHA) published a map of over 21’723 REACH-registered substances, referred to as the ‘chemical universe.’ ECHA positions this map as “a planning and monitoring tool that helps Member States and EU authorities focus on substances of (potential) concern and identify appropriate regulatory actions, where needed.” The map also provides “companies and other stakeholders” with “additional transparency on the work of authorities and the progress made in regulating chemicals.”

Within the map, each substance “has been assigned to a pool that indicates the regulatory actions in place, initiated, ongoing or under consideration.” The five pools include:

  1. “Regulatory risk management ongoing: substances with confirmed hazards for human health and the environment. [385 substances]
  2. Regulatory risk management under consideration: substances that are currently being considered for regulatory risk management. [327 substances]
  3. Data generation: substances that require additional information to conclude whether further regulatory action is needed. [1544 substances]
  4. Currently no further action proposed: substances for which authorities have not proposed further regulatory action at the moment. [700 substances]
  5. Not yet assigned: substances currently registered under REACH but not yet assigned to any of the other pools. [18’767 substances]”

Thus, the majority (ca. 86%) of the REACH-registered substances have not yet gone through any evaluation or prioritization procedure to decide on the need for further regulatory actions.

Jack de Bruijn, ECHA’s Director for Prioritization and Integration, said that the current focus is “mostly on the substances registered for volumes greater than 100 tons per year, where we aim to assign each substance to one of the pools by the end of 2020. For all registered substances, the work should be concluded by 2027. For many substances, further hazard data will need to be generated as non-compliant registrations are hampering progress. To that end, we have a joint action plan with the Commission to improve compliance of registrations to ensure they contain the necessary information to establish safe use.”

ECHA emphasized that the presented map “does not indicate whether a substance’s use is safe or not” and that “the assignment to a pool is . . . not permanent – substances will move from one pool to another over time when new information becomes available or priorities change.” Further, ECHA explained that “the assignment is largely calculated by algorithms and is based on a snapshot of the data from August 2019.” Therefore, the mapping is “not flawless” and readers are “encourage[d] . . . to check the substance’s infocard for the latest information.”

Read more

ECHA (December 4, 2019). “Mapping the chemical universe: List of substances by regulatory action published.

ECHA (2019). “How does the chemical universe mapping work?

ECHA (2019). “Universe of registered substances.

Luke Buxton (December 5, 2019). “Regulatory action to be determined on almost 90% of REACH registered substances.Chemical Watch