According to figures notified to the European Chemicals Agency (ECHA), 5,675 chemicals that manufacturers/importers consider to be carcinogenic, mutagenic or toxic for reproduction (CMR) can be found on the European market.

ECHA, which is in charge of implementing two sets of EU chemicals rules (REACH and CLP), published the data in a report released on 19 January 2015. The agency compared the data supplied by manufacturers/importers when notifying the classification and labelling of hazardous substances under the CLP Regulation with the registration dossiers submitted under REACH. Of the 5,675 chemicals marketed in the EU that manufacturers/importers regard as CMRs, just 1,169 were registered.

"Why this is – and what makes NGOs and trade unions deeply unhappy – is that the REACH Regulation only requires CMRs produced in Europe or imported in quantities of one tonne or more a year to be registered," says the ETUI’s chemical risks expert Tony Musu.

Notification of hazard information in the EU - via product labels and safety data sheets – is based on the Regulation on classification, labelling and packaging of substances and mixtures (CLP Reg). The responsibility for classifying and labelling the substances they market in line with the rules laid down in the CLP Regulation lies with manufacturers, so different manufacturers can feasibly classify and label the same substance differently.

A harmonized classification has been laid down at European level for some substances, however, that manufacturers must comply with. These substances are listed in Annex VI of the CLP Regulation. There are currently thousands of them, of which 1 400 individual substances and 23 groups are CMRs.

The ECHA report concludes that by far most notifiers have classified their CLP Regulation Annex VI CMRs correctly in line with that instrument’s mandatory classification. But it also identifies more than 4 000 CMRs on the European market which have been notified as such by the manufacturers who market them but not registered under REACH.

This means a large number of CMRs are floating around the EU market outside the REACH registration procedure whose net benefit is to require manufacturers to supply highly detailed information so as to keep tabs on the risks of these hazardous chemicals to consumers’ and workers’ health.

- ECHA report: 2014 CMR Report, 19 January 2015

- ECHA press release, 19 January 2015