Last reviewed 24 March 2021

The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) has set out the first restrictions to be initiated under its new chemical regulation system, UK REACH.

The substances these restriction proposals will consider includes (but not limited to) substances that can cause cancer, skin sensitisers and irritants, and those considered dangerous to reproduction.

Rebecca Pow says the new restrictions will tackle risks posed by toxic chemicals. Launching the UK REACH plans, Pow said:

“The plans announced today are just the first step in a wider programme of work we are able to pursue under the new independent chemicals framework UK REACH.

“We will continue to review what further measures we can explore to safeguard human health and the environment based on robust science and the best available evidence.”

The Government established UK REACH chemicals regulatory framework in January 2021, following our exit from the EU and the European chemicals regulatory regime (ECHA).

Under the new arrangement, the EU REACH Regulation has been brought into UK law under the European Union (Withdrawal) Act 2018, but the two schemes now operate independently from each other.

The new arrangements allow Great Britain to make its own decisions on the regulation of chemicals. The first restrictions to be introduced under UK REACH include restrictions on certain harmful substances found in tattoo inks and permanent make-up.

Lead ammunition is also likely to be phased out, following growing concern over the harm caused to the environment, wildlife and people. According to Defra, an estimated 100,000 wildfowl die in the UK each year from ingesting highly toxic lead from used pellets and a further 400,000 birds that predate on wildfowl also suffer.

A restriction will be introduced if evidence shows an unacceptable risk to human health and the environment, and after a public consultation.

The review of the evidence will be conducted by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE), with support from the Environment Agency. Together, they will investigate the risk of per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) and consider how best to manage any identified risks.

PFAS are a group of over 9000 different chemicals, some of which are already banned or highly restricted. In industry, these substances are used as stain repellents, coatings and fire-fighting foams. The chemicals in PFAS are extremely persistent in the environment; the substances can accumulate in animals and can also be toxic this means PFAS are of growing concern for both human health and environmental reasons.

A restriction will be introduced if evidence shows an unacceptable risk to human health and the environment, and after a public consultation.

Consultation on the government’s Persistent Organic Pollutants (POPs) plan has also been launched. POPs are toxic chemical substances that are slow to degrade and can accumulate in human and animal tissue. The chemicals are used in consumer and industrial products such as electronics, textiles and furniture, and can leach onto land, into the water and into the air.

The draft POP Implementation Plan to reduce and eliminate new POPs from the environment is open to consultation from industry and the general public. Further details are available here.