The UK regulation on Registration, Evaluation, Authorisation and Restriction of Chemicals (UK REACH) is part of GB’s independent chemicals regulatory framework. UK REACH regulates the use of chemicals to protect human health and the environment and applies to the majority of chemical substances that are manufactured in or imported into Great Britain.
The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) and the Scottish and Welsh Governments worked with the Health and Safety Executive, the Environment Agency and stakeholders, and trade associations to identify priorities for the UK REACH work programme in the financial year 2022 to 2023.
Out of the 17 proposals, 5 were identified as priorities for the 2022 to 2023 UK REACH work programme, these included:
- Per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS).
PFAS are a large group of synthetic chemicals consisting of several thousand individual chemical substances. Long term, some PFAS accumulate in living tissue (bioaccumulate) and can significantly affect human health and wildlife by causing cancer, interfering with hormonal systems (endocrine disruption) and some PFAS are toxic to reproduction. Many of those that do not bioaccumulate are still likely to accumulate in surface on ground waters, including drinking water supplies, which are hard to remove.
- Intentionally added microplastics.
The risks of intentionally added microplastics are not well characterised. The existing concerns relate mainly to the environmental risks, but more recent studies suggest there are also risks to human health.
- Formaldehyde and formaldehyde releasers in articles.
The most significant sources of formaldehyde emissions in homes are wood-based panels. European (and British) manufacturers of wood- based panels adopted a voluntary standard on formaldehyde emissions in 2007, however panels manufactured outside the UK and EU are not always complaint- therefore any new restrictions are likely to mainly affect imports.
- Bisphenols in thermal paper.
Bisphenols are commonly used to produce inks in thermal papers, in particular, manufacturers use BPA as a colour developer. BPA is already restricted under both EU and UK REACH due to concerns over endocrine disruption and being toxic to reproduction. However, a study conducted by ECHA showed that manufacturers are substituting BPA with other bisphenols with a similar hazard profile.
- Hazardous flame retardants.
Although commonly used in articles such as furniture, building materials and electronics, some groups of flame retardant are hazardous to both human health and the environment. Several substances used as flame retardants are already subject to restrictions (under UK REACH and other regulations), which in some cases, has led to substitution with other substances with similar hazard profiles.