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UK REACH explained

Updated: Jun 6

UK REACH is a regulation that applies to the majority of chemical substances that are manufactured in or imported into Great Britain (GB) (England, Scotland, Wales). This can be:

  • A substance on its own

  • A substance in a mixture, for example ink or paint

  • A substance that makes up an 'article' - an object that is produced with a special shape, surface or design, for example a car, furniture or clothes.

REACH stands for registration, evaluation, authorisation and restriction of chemicals.


Under the European Union (Withdrawal) Act 2018, the EU REACH Regulation was brought into UK law on 1 January 2021 and is known as UK REACH.

REACH, and related legislation, were replicated in the UK with the changes needed to make it operable in a domestic context. The REACH Statutory Instruments that made these changes can be found on The key principles of the EU REACH Regulation were retained in UK REACH.

The UK REACH and the EU REACH regulations operate independently from each other. You must ensure you comply with both regulations, where necessary.

UK REACH regulates chemicals placed on the market in GB.

Under the terms of the Northern Ireland Protocol, EU REACH continues to apply in Northern Ireland.

Aims of UK REACH

The aims of UK REACH include to:

  • provide a high level of protection of human health and the environment from the use of chemicals

  • make the people who place chemicals on the market (manufacturers and importers) responsible for understanding and managing the risks associated with their use

  • promote the use of alternative methods for the assessment of the hazardous properties of substances - for example quantitative structure-activity relationships (QSAR) and read across

Your duties under UK REACH

Your business must identify and manage the risks presented by substances you manufacture and place on the market in GB. You must be able to demonstrate how the substance can be used safely and you must communicate the risk management measures to the users. You will need to consider your role in the supply chain in GB and how you use chemicals  to determine what your obligations may be. Your previous role under EU REACH may have changed significantly under UK REACH so you should review your role(s) (previous GB downstream users under EU REACH may now be importers under UK REACH).UK REACH:

  • covers all sectors manufacturing, importing, distributing or using chemicals as raw materials or finished products (not only the chemical industry)

  • applies regardless of your company size

  • makes you responsible for the safe use of the substances you place on the market or use

  • requires every actor in the supply chain to communicate information on the safe use of chemicals

Scope and exemptions

Generally, UK REACH applies to all individual chemical substances on their own, in mixtures or in articles. Some aspects of UK REACH only apply at one tonne per year or more. For more information go to our guidance on UK REACH registration. Some substances are specifically excluded:

  • Radioactive substances

  • Substances under customs supervision

  • The transport of substances

  • Non-isolated intermediates

  • Waste

  • Some naturally occurring low-hazard substances

Some substances, covered by more specific legislation, have tailored provisions under UK REACH, including:

  • Human and veterinary medicines

  • Food and foodstuff additives

  • Plant protection products and biocides

  • Isolated intermediates

  • Substances used for research and development

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