The EU’s REACH chemicals regulations offers health benefits that are four times greater than the costs, according to new analysis by the European Chemicals Agency (ECHA). The monetized health benefits of REACH from restricting the manufacture and use of chemicals that pose a risk to EU citizens amount to €2.1 billion ($2.5 billion) annually, while the associated costs to society add up to €500 million ($600 million) per year, ECHA estimates.
Meanwhile, the combined costs of all restrictions that REACH proposed between 2010 and 2020 amounted to €1.7 billion ($2 billion) per year, the agency calculates.
In addition, ECHA points out in its report that REACH provides significant savings by mitigating environmental risks. The regulation is estimated to prevent the release of more than 95,000 tons of hazardous substances into the environment each year.
Preventing chemical pollution requires a new approach for designing safe and sustainable products
It is possible to make products safer and more sustainable by assessing their performance at the design stage of product development, according to the European Environmental Agency briefing ‘Delivering chemicals and products that are safe and sustainable by design’. This approach would reduce risks from chemical pollution and support Europe’s transition to a circular and low-carbon economy.
The EEA briefing describes a process that starts by focusing on the functionalities that a product delivers in terms of the service it provides to the customer. At the next stage, product candidates should be assessed and compared for their life cycle effects, including safety, resource use and circularity, greenhouse gas emissions, and impacts on ecosystems. Candidate products often perform unequally across these dimensions so the selection process should include minimum requirements for each dimension as well as a total score for the overall performance.