The EU legislation on chemicals REACH (Registration, Evaluation and Authorisation of CHemical substances) provides that each Member State of the EU shall organize inspections of chemicals available in its market.

The purpose of these inspections is to assure to the citizens and businesses that these products are compliant with the standards set out in the legislation while seeking free circulation of the compliant substances.

European coordination: ECHA

In Europe, the Member States, under the auspices of the European Chemicals Agency (ECHA), must:

• implement a number of international and European regulations (including REACH)
• coordinate the implementation of the technical, scientific and administrative aspects. To be precise, it pertains to the registration, evaluation and marketing authorisation of chemicals, especially the ones most dangerous to human health and the environment.

ECHA keeps a watch at the Community level over the consistency of obligations imposed on businesses and sets up a harmonised list of hazard classifications of the substances.
ECHA proposes and coordinates joint inspection projects with the Member States.

REACH controls in Belgium

The purpose of the controls is to ensure that marketed chemicals have been registered with the ECHA database and that their degree of danger has been properly assessed.

These controls aim to achieve high level of protection of the human health and the environment while ensuring free circulation of the compliant substances.

During these inspections, focus is specifically on checking:
• the registration of substances;
• documents such as Safety Data Sheets (SDS);
• labelling of products.

1. The "standardised and simultaneous" inspection campaigns

ECHA also proposes and coordinates standardized and simultaneous inspection projects in which the Member States participate. Since 2010, two projects have been the subject of inspection campaigns carried out by the Federal Environmental Inspection (FPS Public Health, Food Chain Safety and Environment) with Belgian companies.

• Reach Enforce 1 mainly targeted importers and manufacturers of substances. 
60 Belgian companies were inspected during this first project.
• Reach Enforce 2 mainly targeted detergent and paint formulators. 41 Belgian companies were inspected during this second project.

Third campaign project (Reach Enforce 3) has taken place in 2013.

2. "Routine" controls

During routine checks carried out in places of sale of chemicals, inspectors check the compliance of substances subject to marketing or prohibition.

For example:

• products that are carcinogenic, mutagenic or toxic for reproduction (CMR);
• mercury based measuring devices;
• endocrine disruptor (EDC) based toys;
• respiratory allergens based polyurethane insulation foams;
• etc.

In 2013, several routine inspection campaigns focused on the limitations and prohibitions relating to the REACH legislation.

The controls targeted:
• products that are carcinogenic, mutagenic or toxic for reproduction (CMR), of which the most dangerous are banned from sale to the general public;
• heavy metals, some of which are banned in costume jewellery;
• cadmium banned in welding rods.