The EU Commission has been asked to reconsider how effective the REACH Authorisation process is for the management of a range of chemical substances that are vital to the future economic competitiveness of European industry.

A coalition of 31 European and international associations, including the International Lead Association and the car-making, pharmaceuticals and metals industries, believes that using REACH authorisation to manage many chemical substances, that are for industrial use only, would be less proportionate and more costly than using existing EU workplace safety legislation.

The industry coalition met with Ms Marianne Klingbeil (Deputy Secretary General of the Commission), Elizabeth Goldberg (Director of the Directorate C – Smart Regulation and Work Programme) and officials from DG Growth, Employment and Environment, last week to highlight concerns about potential overlaps between existing EU workplace safety legislation and REACH for substances where use is restricted to the workplace.

In a statement issued by the coalition said: “Opting for REACH Authorisation would not add any layer of protection (for employees) where safety can already be established by applying workplace legislation.”

The industry coalition also argued that overregulation or disproportionate regulatory requirements could be very impactful on the competitiveness of EU businesses by threatening continuity of supply, affecting their long-term investment security and possibly forcing them out of business or to relocate outside the EU.

Among the substances potentially identified for inclusion on the REACH authorisation list are four lead compounds (lead monoxide, lead tetroxide, tetralead trioxide sulphate, pentalead tetroxide sulphate) that already have binding occupational and biological limits (OELs/BLV) at EU level backed up by additional legislative requirements such as the need for health surveillance and  special consideration for pregnant and young workers.  These substances are critical raw materials used in the manufacture of lead-based batteries with no substitutes currently available.

The competitiveness of the lead-based battery industry in Europe, and other smaller applications of these lead compounds (in manufacture of glass, ceramics, explosives, rubber) would therefore be under threat if the use of these substances were restricted under REACH authorisation as imports of these articles would not be affected by authorisation..

Lead REACH Consortium manager Aggie Kotze said: “The coalition understands that REACH authorisation is necessary to ensure that the risks from Substances of Very High Concern are properly controlled and that these substances are progressively replaced by suitable alternatives.

“However for some uses , such as lead compounds in battery manufacturing , we do not believe it will improve the level of workplace protection at all and will adversely impact the other objective of authorisation which is to ensure the good functioning of the EU internal market.”

The meeting participants agreed that the industry coalition’s proposals deserved further analysis and it was requested to:
  • Contribute to the review of the EU’s occupational safety and health (OSH) legislation
  • Provide further facts and figures (on compliance with workplace legislation)
  • Demonstrate the natural drive towards substitution of hazardous substances
  • Provide concrete examples of how the procedure for setting OELs can be simplified
  • Approach trade unions and engage with Member States (both REACH authorities and workplace authorities)


Notes to editors

About the industry coalition

For more information on this issue see the coalition’s Position Paper and also see the full list of coalition members

About ILA

The International Lead Association is the worldwide membership body that supports companies involved in the mining, smelting, refining and recycling of lead. The ILA represents the producers of about 3 million tonnes of lead. Recent studies have shown that lead-based batteries achieve a recycling rate of 99% in the EU and USA.

With offices in the UK and USA the ILA provides a range of technical, scientific and communications support and is focused on all aspects of the industry’s safe production, use and recycling of lead.

ILA manages the Lead REACH Consortium which provides co-ordination and technical support to lead manufacturers, importers and downstream users.

ILA also supports the Advanced Lead-Acid Battery Consortium, which manages the research, development and promotion of lead-based batteries for markets such as hybrid electric vehicles, start-stop automotive systems and grid-scale energy storage applications.