A House of Commons Library Briefing Paper concerning the regulation of chemicals. There are many pieces of legislation that govern the regulation of chemicals, the majority of these originating from the European Union. This briefing will focus on the main regulations, giving details on what they cover.Jump to full report >>
With a few exceptions, the regulations that govern chemicals in the UK originate from the European Union (EU). EU regulations, unlike directives, apply directly to UK law and statutory instruments are used to assign the appropriate authority to enforce them. There are, however, regulations such as the Control of Substances Hazardous to Health (COSHH) Regulations, which bring EU directives into UK law and others such as the Control of Pesticides Regulations that are UK in origin.
The Registration, Evaluation and Authorisation of Chemicals (REACH) Regulation is concerned with the registration of chemicals (referred to as substances) and their authorisation for placement on the European Market. In order for this to occur the hazards posed by the chemicals and the systems that can be put in place to prevent them must be stated.
The Classification, Labelling and Packaging (CLP) Regulation is in place to ensure that the hazards posed by chemicals are effectively communicated to the users. A part of this is standardising the symbols and warning that are associated with hazards. This manifests itself in the EU’s adoption of the globally harmonised system (GHS), which is published by the UN.
The Control of Substances Hazardous to Health (COSHH) Regulations place duties on employers to prevent or reduce the exposure of people to substances that are hazardous to health. These include best practices, safety equipment and first aid procedures.
The Cosmetics Products (CP) Regulation is responsible for ensuring that chemicals used in cosmetics are safe for consumers. They require manufacturers to carry out safety assessments for their products, with specific safety assessments for products that are intended for external intimate hygiene and use on children under 3 years old.
The Biocidal Products (BP) Regulation governs the use of products that contain chemicals, which protect humans, animals, materials or articles against harmful organisms like pests or bacteria. They are in place to ensure these chemicals are safe for humans and the environment, whilst improving the functioning of the biocidal products market.
Whist these regulations are in place to ensure our safety, they are sometimes criticised for hindering industry. The use of chemicals regulations for pharmaceutical substrates, but medicines regulations for pharmaceuticals themselves has been cited as an example of this.
The fact that chemicals regulation is almost entirely EU in origin poses questions of what may happen in the event the UK leaves the EU. Modification to chemicals regulation would likely be low on the list of legislation to be changed, but may provide the Government with the means for any significant deregulation of the sector.
Commons Briefing papers CBP-7681
Author: Christian Potiszil