Selling chemicals - REACH
If you use, sell or supply chemical substances, you must comply with the REACH (Registration, Evaluation, Authorisation and restriction of Chemicals) Regulation.
If you sell chemical substances, or items that contain chemicals, you must:
- help your suppliers communicate with end users
- pass on safety information to your customers (safety data sheets) when appropriate
- respond to customer queries about chemical products
- pass information from customers back to your suppliers, for example about new uses or safer methods.
If you manufacture chemicals or import chemicals from outside the European Union (EU) you will have additional duties under the REACH Regulation.
REACH applies to a very wide range of chemical substances, either on their own or in preparations and mixtures.
Preparations and mixtures that you may use or sell include:
- coatings eg paints, varnishes or enamels
- pigments, dyes or inks
- kitchen and bathroom cleaning products
- photograph processing chemicals
- chemicals used to produce man-made fibres
- hairdressing products, such as hair dyes
- dry-cleaning solvents
- pet care products
- chemicals contained within articles, eg ink in printer cartridges or pens.
It may not be obvious that a product contains chemicals. For example, many items of clothing contain chemicals in the form of dyes, or phthalates in plastic buttons.
REACH also applies to chemical substances contained in finished products or articles, whether you are manufacturing or supplying them within the EU, or importing them from outside the EU.
Some chemical substances are partially or completely exempt from REACH. See the UK REACH Competent Authority guidance for further information about exemptions. Be aware that exemptions may change.
Chemical substances inventory
You should make an inventory or list of chemical substances that your business uses, supplies, manufactures or imports. This will help you understand your responsibilities, what you need to do and the impact REACH will have on your business activities.
Chemical retailers and distributors' requirements
If you are a chemical retailer or distributor you also have responsibilities under REACH.
You must provide your customers with a safety data sheet with information on the substances you supply.
You must not supply a substance that has not been pre-registered or registered if the substance needs to be.
Your customers' use of any chemical must be covered by its REACH registration. To check this, you may need to tell your suppliers how your customers are using a chemical.
Chemicals users' requirements
You are a chemical user if as a part of your work you:
- use any chemicals or preparations
- formulate or blend chemical preparations or mixtures
- use any chemicals, preparations or mixtures to produce articles.
If you use a chemical substance you must make sure that you:
- identify and follow all appropriate safety measures identified by the chemical's safety data sheet, if required
- use the substance within its safe exposure limits
- comply with any restrictions or conditions of authorisation that have been placed on its use.
Chemsec has developed an online resource, the Marketplace, where businesses can source alternatives to chemicals that have health or environmental impacts. If you produce safer chemicals then you can also present your alternatives to potential customers.
Information on chemicals use
You should check that your suppliers register all the ways you use the chemicals they supply. This is to make sure that your supply of chemicals will not be disrupted. This may not be necessary if you only use the chemical in the way your supplier intended.
If you have an unusual use for a substance, you should provide your suppliers with details of how you intend to use the chemical. This will allow them to include this information in their registration.
You can choose not to give your suppliers this information if you feel it will compromise your business. In this case you must carry out your own chemical safety assessment. You will normally have to provide this information to the European Chemicals Agency (ECHA) and any final users of the chemical.
REACH places restrictions on the marketing and use of certain chemical substances on their own or in preparations. These include substances that are classified as persistent, bioaccumulative and toxic (PBT) in the environment.
There are two groups of chemicals:
- substances of very high concern (SVHCs) and Annex XIV (14) substances that require an authorisation for their use
- Annex XVII (17) substances whose marketing and use is restricted.
A substance can appear in both groups.
Chemicals requiring authorisation
REACH identifies substances with known high risks to human health or the environment as substances of very high concern (SVHCs) and Annex XIV substances. ECHA has produced a proposed candidate list of possible substances of very high concern and a recommended list of substances to be included in Annex XIV.
If you supply an article containing a substance on the SVHC candidate list or Annex XIV you must give recipients information on the substance and how to use it safely.
If you supply a substance on its own or in a preparation or mixture you must provide recipients and customers with a safety data sheet.
Depending on which substance you supply and the amount you supply, you may also need to:
- submit a notification to ECHA
- get an authorisation for specific uses for that substance if it appears in Annex XIV.
The UK REACH competent authority has produced guidance on substances that require an authorisation.
Annex XVII substances
Annex XVII of REACH contains a list of restricted chemicals with the associated restrictions and concentration limits. More chemicals and restrictions may be added in the future.
Restricted chemicals include:
- lead carbonates
- lead sulphates
- nonylphenol and its ethoxylates
- compounds containing mercury and arsenic.
Annex XVII of REACH is subject to change, you should check it regularly to keep up to date with restrictions on the chemicals you are involved with.
Use the European Union law database and search using the terms 'REACH' with 'Annex XVII' in the simple search window (text search).
If a chemical is listed in Annex XVII you must not:
- market or use the chemical for the restrictions outlined
- market or use any substances, preparations or article containing the chemical for the restrictions outlined
- allow or cause anyone else to break the rules of a restriction.
Annex XVII chemicals are restricted to protect:
- the environment.
Enforcement of REACH
Different regulators enforce REACH depending on the chemical, your business type and part of the UK you operate in. To check, contact the HSE to find out which regulator you need to speak to.
Manufacturers, importers and distributors
If you manufacture or import chemical substances into the EU you must comply with additional requirements. For more information see our guidance on the REACH Regulation.
Further information on complying with REACH
UK REACH competent authority guidance
European Chemicals Agency guidance
ECHA has set up a helpdesk for queries relating to all aspects of REACH.
Other relevant NetRegs guidance
Trade associations can help you find alternative chemicals and solutions.