The REACH regulations have already come into force and are now in the registration phases. The REACH regulations are a monster even by the EU’s standard and are many hundreds of pages long. They apply directly to manufacturers and users of chemicals who must register by specific target dates from 2011 to 2018 if their activities are covered by the regulations. The purpose of the regulations is to tackle the problem of the huge amount of harmful and persistent chemicals in use around the world. While the regulations will be expensive for companies to comply with, the cost to society is expected to result in an overall cost saving, with significant reductions in the human medical affects of chemical usage expected in the future. Whilst not directly affecting many electronic product designs or electronic product manufacturers, they are still something to be aware of as it is expected that in due course a significant number of the more unpleasant chemicals in use today will be discontinued by their manufacturers due to the cost to comply with the regulations as they tighten their grip. As yet the impact on the electronics industry is unknown, but many of the chemicals used in electronics are likely to come under increasing scrutiny.
Also be aware that the scope of the regulations is actually very wide and they cover many products you may not expect them to. For instance a marker pen, a bar of soap and a battery are all products that either release a chemical by intention or it can be foreseen that they could release a chemical (e.g. a battery leaking). Manufacturers of products that involve the intentional or forseeable release of chemicals need to comply with REACH. To not comply is a criminal offence.
Whilst REACH is going to be a high cost to industry one of REACH’s prime aims, in addition to compiling data on the use of chemicals by industry, is to stimulate the development of and change to less harmful chemicals.