Regulation of toxic substances used to be done on a country-by-country basis. This has changed significantly in the past dozen years, as European Union’s REACH system (Registration, Evaluation, Authorization and restriction of Chemicals) has had knock-on effects globally. The changing regulatory environment was discussed by several speakers at the Canadian Association for Surface Finishing’s Annual Conference, held on November 18 at the Hilton Garden Inn in Vaughan, ON, including Dr. Werner Richtering, director of R&D for the finishing unit of Atotech in Germany. Richtering spoke on the current state of regulation in Europe, where known candidates for eventual elimination, such as hexavalent chromium, are likely to be followed by substances such as borates and boric acid, and nonylphenolethoxylates, the surfactants usually called simply NPEs. And cobalt salts are also under scrutiny for possible future restriction. Such changes are not restricted to Europe. “China used to have almost no restricted substances,” Richtering told his audience. “Today, there are 2,800 local restrictions for specific chemicals. Korea, too, has a specific list and a process for addressing the chemicals on it.” Additionally, major commercial companies have put attention on certain substances. Samsung doesn’t want its suppliers using formaldehyde, and nickel compounds are restricted by a number of cellphone manufacturers. The European designation for problem substances is SVHC, standing for Substance of Very High Concern. Such chemicals are examined under the over-arching REACH program. By 2020, he said, the current list of 31 ubstances on the list is expected to expand to 450. “Hexavalent chromium will probably to be banned completely in 12 years,” Richtering added. “And chromium trioxide will be banned in Europe as of September 21, 2017, where there is not explicit authorization for certain uses. Our first priority at Atotech is the development of hexavalent chromium-free alternative processes for all plating applications.” Use of hexavalent chrome in Europe has gone from 14,000 tonnes in 2002 to 90,000 tonnes in 2014. The metals finishing industry uses half of this.