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2018 not the ‘end of the story’ on REACH, warns former RIVM head

It is critical that CEOs do not see the final 2018 REACH registration deadline as the “end of the story”, says Dick Sijm, former head of the REACH Bureau at the Dutch National Institute for Health and Environment (RIVM).

In an article in this month’s Global Business Briefing, Mr Sijm, who recently took up a position at the Dutch Food and Consumer Product Safety Authority, says REACH should be seen as similar to a healthcare system because “it never ends”.

Beyond 2018, he says, “it needs to stay ‘between the ears’ of company bosses.”

This message is starting to get across, he says, since chemical safety has now become a business issue. “Chemical safety has moved beyond the environment, health and safety departments of chemical companies and is now on the radar of CEOs.”

He also comments on criticism of the REACH authorisation process, saying the process is good, but “we are struggling with it, partly because of the way some companies react to the identification of substances of very high concern (SVHCs).”

“Companies say they have dealt with risky substances, like carcinogenic, mutagenic, reprotoxic (CMRs) substances. But, if this were true, when faced with authorisation, they would not say the process will cost them their business,” he added.

Rather than countering authorisation with economic arguments, Mr Sijm says he would like companies to say: “We are aware of the risk. We can deal with it, and will seriously look for alternatives.”

“As it is now, the authorities decide on SVHCs, and then there are the political discussions in which economic arguments seem to prevail, and companies complain of losing their business,” he says.