The clock is ticking down for North American companies that export chemicals to the European Union (EU). The six-month window for the preregistration phase of the REACH chemical control legislation started on June 1. Companies exporting at least one metric ton (MT) of a chemical substance to the EU need to take urgent actions if they have not already done so. REACH requires that all chemical substances manufactured in the EU or imported to the EU at quantities of at least one MT be registered (see sidebar).

Preregistration
Although there are some exemptions, almost all lubricants and additives are caught in the preregistration and registration requirements. In order to carry out a preregistration, a company must have an EU-based company submit the necessary information to the European Chemicals Agency. Lubricants can contain as many as 20 to 30 chemical substances, each of which may need to be preregistered separately. By carrying out the preregistration, companies gain an additional two to 9.5 years, depending on volume and hazard, to complete the registration phase.

Information Exchange Forum
The European Chemicals Agency does not charge fees for preregistration; however, fees for registration can be as high as $47,500 for a high-volume (greater than 1,000 MT/year) substance. Different companies that preregister the same substance will be placed in a Substance Information Exchange Forum (SIEF). One SIEF will be formed per substance. The purpose of the SIEF is to exchange toxicological/ecotoxicological data and to agree on the hazard classification for each substance.

Options for Compliance
North American lubricant manufacturers and formulators have a number of options to ensure that they comply with the REACH requirements upon preregistration. If they know the full formulations down to substance level of the products they export to the EU, then they could communicate this to their EU importer(s) and ask them to complete the preregistration.

If the importer(s) are unable or unwilling to carry out the preregistration, then it may be possible to appoint an Only Representative. This could be an EU affiliate of the North American exporter or another company willing to take on the REACH duties that the importer(s) would otherwise have to perform.

Alternatively, if the full compositions of the products are not known and are unlikely to be disclosed by suppliers (usually due to trade secrecy reasons), then the lubricant manufacturer should consider requesting his supplier to carry out the preregistration via the supplier's Only Representative. If the supplier agrees to do this, then his Only Representative will be required to be informed of the annual volume of his product that the lubricant manufacturer is exporting to the EU and also the names of the EU importers.

If lubricant manufacturers cannot establish that the substances in their products will be preregistered, then they may have to consider blending their product within the EU using EU-sourced ingredients. This allows the lubricant manufacturers to claim "downstream user" status, which alleviates the need to preregister the substances in their products because this will be carried out by the upstream EU suppliers.

REACH is a hard-hitting piece of legislation, and one that many companies thought would never happen. However, the fact is that it has been enacted and implementation is well under way. Noncompliance with REACH can result in penalties such as fines and removal of a product from the EU market.

For More Information About the Association
European Union
The EU is comprised of 27 independent states. Member states include:

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Austria

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  • Belgium
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  • Denmark
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  • Germany
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  • Greece
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  • United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland
    What Is REACH?
    REACH is the regulation for Registration, Evaluation, Authorization and Restriction of Chemicals. It entered into force on June 1, 2007 to streamline and improve the former legislative framework on chemicals of the EU. The regulation places greater responsibility on industry to manage the risks that chemicals may pose to health and the environment. 

    Objectives

    The aims of REACH are to:

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    Improve the protection of human health and the environment from the risks posed by chemicals.

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  • Enhance the competitiveness of the EU chemicals industry, a key sector for the economy of the EU.
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  • Promote alternative methods for the assessment of hazards of substances.
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  • Ensure the free circulation of substances on the internal market of the EU.

    European Chemicals Agency


    The agency, ECHA, located in Helsinki, Finland, manages the registration, evaluation, authorization and restriction processes for chemical substances to ensure consistency across the EU. These REACH processes are designed to provide additional information on chemicals, to ensure their safe use, and to ensure competitiveness of the European industry.

    Agency's Mission

    The mission of ECHA is to:

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    Manage and carry out technical, scientific and administrative aspects of REACH.

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  • Ensure consistency at the community level in relation to these aspects.
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  • Provide the EU member states and the institutions of the community with the best possible scientific and technical advice on questions relating to chemicals which fall under REACH.
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  • Manage IT-based guidance documents, tools and data bases.
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  • Support national helpdesk and run a helpdesk for registrants.
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  • Make information on chemicals publicly accessible.