A study by the Johns Hopkins University School of Public Health recently concluded that the REACH regulation in the European Union will require $13.6 billion to implement over the next 10 years—six times more than previously anticipated [T Hartung and Constanza Rovida, Nature, 2009, 460, 27; available for a fee online]. The principal reason is that the number of chemicals pre-registered for REACH by industry vastly exceeded expectations, pointing to a huge volume of testing. The JHU authors found that as many as 101,000 chemicals could be covered by REACH, triple the earlier estimates. They concluded that “this clearly challenges the feasibility of the program without a major investment into high-throughput methodologies” that would expedite the testing regimens.
What does that mean? Probably higher fees paid by industry to the European Chemical Agency to cover registration and authorization activities. Those watching the REACH "vision" unfold, particularly in the manufacturing community, should probably be forgiven for saying “I told you so.” There was never much doubt that this was a hugely ambitious and expensive regulatory initiative. In fact the authors of the Hopkins study, who are supporters of REACH, describe it as “the biggest investment into consumer safety ever.” Which begs the question as to whether it will ultimately produce commensurate benefits. Maybe someday we’ll know.