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The EU institutions and Member States spend considerable resources adopting and implementing protective chemical norms, including under the REACH regulation. The problem is that, today, many can escape the rules because the accountability systems set by REACH are deficient. That must change if we want effective protection of human health and the environment from hazardous chemicals - the ongoing revision of REACH offers that opportunity.
Discussions on enforcement in the context of the reform of REACH currently focus on “enforceability”, and the solution proposed is a more systematic involvement of the enforcement Forum – which advices ECHA and Member States on questions related to REACH enforcement. The Forum has been useful and will continue to be, but the issues behind the lack of enforcement will in no way be solved solely by broadening its role.
In this paper, we show how we could use the REACH reform to address the issue of enforcement more holistically and learn from best practices in other areas of EU law, such as the IED, consumer law, anti-discrimination law or GDPR. That includes, notably, increasing the resources spent on enforcement, but also creating clearer and more specific obligations for companies and making sure non-compliance is effectively sanctioned, with appropriate compensation mechanisms and access to justice for the victims. There is no reason the safeguards protecting people and the environment against toxic chemicals should be weaker than those that apply to our consumer choices.