National officials meeting in The Hague have recommended cutting
down the costs of the draft EU chemicals law on businesses while
estimating the long-term benefits for society at “tens of billions”
National officials meeting for a workshop in The Hague,
Netherlands, have put forward a series of recommendations and
conclusions based on an overview of the 36 impact studies published
on REACH to date.
In their conclusions, officials agreed that the costs of REACH
to business – and on SMEs in particular – were too high and needed
to be curbed. To this end, they recommended that the bureaucracy
involved with the implementation of REACH be kept to a minimum.
They also urged for effective co-operation from companies on
implementation and information sharing once the law is passed in
order to avoid unnecessary duplication of tests and keep the
overall costs for industry to a minimum.
The national delegates also calculated the health benefits of
REACH for society at large. Those are estimated to be “at least
tens of billions” of euros with the number of cancer deaths reduced
by “several thousands”, especially among workers exposed to
The workshop issued observations and recommendations on four
main items which are summarised below:
Direct costs and benefits:
- Costs for the EU-25 are approximately 4 billion euros.
- Main benefits for businesses include: better health for
employees exposed to hazardous substances (between €18 and €54
billion over 30 years); creation of a level playing field for
European businesses; likely positive effect on innovation in the
long run (increased R&D expenditure to develop safer
- REACH should be as user-friendly as possible with bureaucracy
kept to a minimum and tools developed to facilitate businesses to
comply with REACH.
- Registration costs should be reduced by enhancing co-operation
between companies on data sharing and avoid duplications.
- Costs imposed on downstream users should be reduced by further
exploring the concepts of ‘use’ and ‘exposure’ categories of
- Expensive animal testing can be replaced by alternative
methods, thereby reducing costs.
Indirect costs and benefits:
- Downstream users need “early stage clarity” about which
products or ingredients can be supplied in order to keep indirect
costs at lowest possible level.
- Companies who momentarily exceed marketing weight thresholds
may be hampered in their expansion by heavier reporting
requirements. Resulting (longer) marketing time needs should be
minimised in order to avoid competitive disadvantages with the US
Impact on society:
- Benefits to society are “undisputed” but hard to quantify. They
include reductions in diseases, improved worker safety and
improvement of biodiversity. These are estimated to be “at
least tens of billions of euros” until 2020 (ranging from
less than €10 and €200 billion depending on conservative or
- Costs to society are also difficult to estimate. They include
loss of workplaces, less competitive businesses and price increases
passed on to consumers.
Competitiveness and innovation:
- While REACH should ensure a level playing between companies
within the EU, European companies selling outside the EU may be at
a disadvantage compared to international competitors.
- Certain sectors – SMEs in particular – are expected to be more
affected than others.
- Short run innovation may be hampered by new legislation, but in
the long run REACH may stimulate innovative new products and
provide a first mover advantage for EU companies on the world
The workshop also recognised that some substance groups such as
metals and minerals needed special attention (see EURACTIV,21 October 2004).