European Chemicals Agency

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The ECHA is is an agency of the European Union which manages the technical and administrative aspects of implementing some EU regulations. ECHA helps companies to comply with the legislation, advances the safe use of chemicals, provides information on chemicals and addresses chemicals of concern. It was founded in 2007 and is based in Helsinki, Finland.

REACH: the Registration, Evaluation, Authorisation and Restriction of Chemicals regulation enforces responsibility on companies to provide information on the hazards, risks and safe use of chemical substances that they manufacture or import. Companies must register this information with ECHA, who make it freely available on their website. Thousands of the most hazardous and the most commonly-used substances have been registered. European consumers can now ask retailers whether the consumer goods that they buy contain dangerous substances. You can search for chemicals by name, EC or CAS number here.

CLP: the Classification, Labelling and Packaging regulation introduces into the EU a globally harmonised system for classifying and labelling chemicals. This means that the same system is now used throughout the world. CLP enables workers and consumers to become more familiar with the symbols and to get to know the effects of chemicals and how to use products safely. International trade in chemicals will also be easier, as the standards for transportation and supply will be the same world-wide.

Biocides: Biocidal products protect against pests and other harmful micro-organisms. They include, for example, insect repellents and disinfectants used in hospitals. The Biocidal Products regulation (BPR) ensures that we have enough information about these products so that consumers can use them safely.

PIC: the law on Prior Informed Consent (PIC) sets guidelines for the import and export of hazardous chemicals. Through this mechanism, importing countries are informed when hazardous chemicals are about to enter their country, and have the possibility of controlling and, in certain cases, rejecting, their imports.

Hazardous chemicals: Substances of Very High Concern (SVHC) are substances that may have serious effects on human health and the environment. These are mainly substances which cause cancer, mutation or are toxic to reproduction, or which persist in the body or the environment, and do not break down, such as endocrine-disrupting chemicals.
When a substance has been officially identified as an SVHC, it is added to the Candidate List. After further investigation, the substance may then be moved to the Authorisation List. Substances on the Authorisation List are prohibited from use or sale, unless the ECHA has granted the company prior authorisation. The objective is to phase out SVCHs wherever possible.
Companies manufacturing or importing articles containing these substances are legally obliged to inform users about the presence of the substance and how to use it safely - but only where the concentration is above 0.1% weight of the article.


The ECA has no enforcement powers or responsibilities; citizens must look to their National Inspectorates for this. The list of authorities responsible for enforcement in the UK is here.

Chemicals in our Life

Citizens have the right to ask a retailer whether SVHC substances are present in the products they buy. The ECHR runs the Chemicals in our Life website, which contains information on what types of products are covered, and how to go about getting this information. They also provide a list of apps to help discover what chemicals are present in certain products.