How European legislation on chemicals improves our lives

REACH is the European Union’s regulation on chemicals. It was created to protect us and our environment against hazardous substances. At the same time, its aims to enhance the competitiveness and innovation of European industry and promote alternatives to testing chemicals on animals.

These web pages give examples of how REACH is protecting consumers, workers, and the environment and how it promotes innovation in the chemical industry.      



Thanks to the European Union’s chemicals legislation, ECHA now hosts the largest database on chemicals in the world.

It contains information on around 140 000 chemicals, and it is growing all the time. The database includes more than two million study summaries on the properties of chemicals and their impact on humans and the environment. It also explains how they are classified (as being corrosive or flammable for example) and guidelines on how to use them safely.

A relatively small proportion of them (170 as of June 2016) are listed as being of ‘very high concern’ because they can cause cancer, mutations, disrupt fertility or build up and persist in the environment. Altogether, this is a vast amount of information, which ECHA is committed to using for the benefit of European citizens and the environment.

What do you want to know?

How does a substance actually affect the human body? Does it irritate your skin or eyes, or does it have a much worse effect, like causing cancer? And in which kinds of products is it used? Is it harmful to the environment and how is it released? All these questions are now answered in brief descriptions of each chemical that we call infocards. If you want to find out about the substances you may be exposed to, this is a good place to start.

As easy as looking up a word in the dictionary, just type the substance name in the search box on the Information on Chemicals section and there it is. The information is built from the data that companies have submitted to ECHA to comply with EU law. If the substance is classified as particularly hazardous, the infocard also shows how it is being scrutinised by regulators at European and national level in order to make sure that people and the environment are protected.

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