The European Chemicals Agency (ECHA) says 290 of the 1,900 registered chemicals it assessed in 2020 may be candidates for further regulatory risk management at EU level if their hazards are confirmed.

The update is outlined in ECHA’s third report on its Integrated Regulatory Strategy, which details the agency’s work to identify and manage chemicals that may pose risks to people and the environment, as well as recommendations to authorities and industry on managing these risks.

ECHA’s Integrated Regulatory Strategy aims to accelerate data generation, identification of groups of substances of concern, and regulatory action. It does so by providing a setup where different regulatory processes can be coherently, effectively, and efficiently used, and by encouraging collaboration between ECHA, member states, and the European Commission.

The goal is to clarify by 2027 which registered substances are a high priority for regulatory risk management or data generation, and which are currently a low priority for further regulatory action.

Last year, ECHA continued addressing groups of structurally similar substances instead of assessing each chemical individually. This group approach boosted the total number of chemicals assessed in 2020 to about 1,900 – which is twice as many as in 2019 and ten times the amount screened annually between 2014 and 2018.

ECHA says most of the 290 chemicals identified as candidates for further risk management will require more data to be generated and confirmation of hazard before any actions can start.

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Harmonised classification is often a prerequisite for risk management actions under REACH (Registration, Evaluation, Authorisation and Restriction of Chemicals) or other EU legislation. There are over 100 substances identified, which based on currently available information, would warrant harmonised classification, but which have so far not been picked up by authorities. A lack of harmonised classification may delay risk management actions by companies or authorities, ECHA says.

The group assessments have also shown that, based on the hazard and use information currently available, there is presently no need for further risk management at EU level for about two-thirds of the substances assessed.

While ECHA says it will continue working on groups of substances and optimising its group approach, it notes it is important that member states ensure adequate resources and initiate regulatory risk management for substances that require further action without delay, and intensify collaboration with each other to maximise the outcome of their work.

It also asserts that industry should make use of programmes developed to help them to review and update data in their REACH registration dossiers. The updates must be done proactively and not only after authorities take regulatory action.