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ECHA - International workplace in the heart of Helsinki

Kemikaalivirasto Anannankadulla, kuva: Pertti Nisonen.

International workplace in the heart of Helsinki

 

What do chemical safety and the Annankatu street in Helsinki have in common?

The European Chemicals Agency (ECHA) is located on Annankatu, opposite the Old Church Park. ECHA is a regulatory authority that promotes chemical safety within the EU. It offers services to 500 million Europeans and the EU industrial sector, and its work has a global reach.

The ECHA premises were established in Helsinki in 2007, and it currently employs around 600 people from nearly 30 European countries. Approximately 30% of the employees are Finnish. Most of the employees were trained in natural sciences, including chemists, biologists and toxicologists, but ECHA also employs a number of experts in ICT, finance, law, HR, communication and administration. The Executive Director is Geert Dancet from Belgium, and his term will end in 2017.

The ECHA working language is English, but many of the international employees study Finnish.  Some of the ECHA employees have backgrounds in EU institutions, but many joined the agency from elsewhere, including universities, research institutes, public administration and companies.

 

Hundreds of representatives for Helsink

The ECHA employees and their family members play an important role as representatives of the city. They get to know Helsinki, share information about it across the world and attract foreigners to Finland. 

The European Chemicals Agency cooperates with around a hundred stakeholder organisations within the EU. The ECHA meetings and events bring thousands of visitors to Helsinki every year. The City of Helsinki helped the agency to establish itself in the city by, for example, supporting the founding of the European School of Helsinki.

 

For chemical safety

The European Union set up ECHA for the purpose of implementing the REACH Regulation.

The REACH Regulation requires that each chemical used in the EU with an annual production or import volume of over one tonne must be registered. The registration dossier is submitted to ECHA, which compares the dossier against the REACH requirements and assesses the risks for human health and the environment of the substance.

Usually, the registration is filed by the manufacturer or the importer. It is also part of ECHA’s mission to help companies comply with the chemicals legislation, address chemicals of concern and share information about the safe use of chemicals.

 

Rich and accessible chemicals database

The ECHA website houses the world’s largest publicly available chemicals database. The database contains, among other things, information on the classification and labelling of 120,000 substances. At the moment, the database has information on 14,000 registered substances, with details on their properties, hazards and safe use.

The website also presents 168 substances of very high concern and 64 substances restricted under REACH in the EU countries. The database contains approximately two million study summaries of substances. By 2018, ECHA will have an overview of all chemicals in the EU market that are manufactured in or imported to the EU by more than one tonne per year.

 

ECHA monitors biocides and labels

In 2012, ECHA became responsible for biocides, the chemical substances intended to deter harmful organisms. Biocides have both domestic and industrial uses. Examples of biocides include disinfectants, industrial preservatives and anti-fouling agents.

ECHA has implemented the regulation on the classification, labelling and packaging of substances and mixtures (the CLP Regulation) since 2009. The CLP Regulation ensures that consumers or employees receive information about chemical hazards and instructions for the safe use of the product by looking at the packaging. Many consumers are familiar with the CLP warnings. The CLP label is made up of standard pictograms and texts, for example, a skull and bones indicate danger.

 

Strict chemicals legislation protects everyone

The EU chemicals legislation is the most ambitious in the world, and its effects are global. If the use of a particular substance is forbidden in the EU, the prohibition can protect workers and nature also outside the EU, such as at manufacturing plants in Asia.

But the first to benefit from the strict legislation are European consumers and the environment. There are many potential threats to chemical safety, including chemical mixtures, nanomaterials and endocrine disruptors. With its work, ECHA also seeks to support the chemical industry and promote innovations that make products safer.

Read more: The ECHA employees talk about their experiences in Helsinki

 

Text: Tiina Torppa

Images: Pertti Nisonen



JAA
05.12.2019 21:55