Chemical substances come in various shapes and sizes. Literally. And the variety of their effects on the human body and the environment is just as broad.
The properties of a substance generally become known over time; a compound that seems harmless at first may turn out to be very dangerous. Sometimes this is because it accumulates in the human body, for example, or it may break down into harmful substances lower down in the food chain.
This is why it is very important to continuously monitor and evaluate the possible harmful effects of all chemical substances produced and used. If a substance proves to be hazardous, then action needs to be taken to remove the threat by imposing relevant regulation.
In the EU, this role belongs to the European Chemicals Agency (ECHA), while similar institutions take this role in other parts of the world. The ECHA continuously monitors scientific literature and other sources about the potential harmful effects of chemicals. If there is suspicion that a substance may have negative effects on human health or the environment, it is studied with increasing degrees of scrutiny. To formalize this process, the ECHA uses a sequence of lists for substances during their evaluation. If the substance proves harmful, it ends up on the list of Substances of Very High Concern (SVHC) and eventually, after more scrutiny, on the Authorization List (Annex XIV of REACH). Once there, it is prohibited to market the substance within the EU without authorization.
This process is codified in the EU’s Registration, Evaluation, Authorisation and restriction of CHemicals (EC 1907/2006) regulation, commonly known as REACH. While the REACH certification process usually takes several years, it is vital for manufacturers or importers to be aware of the status of their products in the SVHC framework. Simply the placement of a substance on a particular list may have legal consequences with substantial economic impact.
REACH registration can thus seem daunting, but keeping up with substances' SVHC status can be made much easier by using Watchdog. It’s a free web application that lets users monitor more than 150,000 substances for changes in their regulatory status while watching for changes in the lists as well. At present, Watchdog includes the entire chain of lists used for SVHC evaluation as well as the list of REACH registered substances. We plan to enlarge the app in the future with other legislation and lists from around the world and translate it into more languages.
Using Watchog is pretty straightforward: Find your substances based on their name, EC, or CAS and put them into your watchlist. You will then get an email about any relevant changes related to your substances. The service also includes a monthly newsletter about recent regulatory changes so you don’t miss anything important.