The European Union’s new REACH regulation introduced for the evaluation and regulation of chemicals is causing suppliers and chip vendors alike to scramble to meet initial requirements and could have a detrimental effect on semiconductor and chip manufacture in Europe, according to speakers at an International Sematech Manufacturing Initiative workshop recently.

The EU’s Registration, Evaluation and Authorisation of Chemicals (REACH) regulation came into effect as law on 1st June 2007 amid a minor wave of controversy and paper trails, as explained and explored in September’s gasworld magazine, and requires that chemicals and certain gases to be used in high volumes must be evaluated and registered.

According to Dawn Speranza, an Intel Corp. environment, health and safety engineer, REACH has cost implications that could make manufacturing in Europe overly expensive.

Speranza commented, “The cost of manufacturing in Ireland is high anyway. It could put factories in Europe out of business. We need to keep the number of restricted chemicals to a minimum.”

Intel has its European manufacturing base in Ireland, an EU member country, and another concern is that competitors will figure out which vendors the company uses and gain closely guarded process technology by searching data in the REACH archives.

Speranza, who currently serves as the president of the Semiconductor Environmental Safety and Health Association, noted that at an early estimate Intel uses around 275 different chemicals in fabrication processes, which include 400 different substances. By June 2009, all of these must be recorded on a pre-registration list.

REACH has equally challenging requirements for suppliers, with technical guidelines due out in November.

Mary Majors, principal safety specialist at Air Products and Chemicals, said, “We realise this is not just an EU issue, it is a global issue.”

As a company which buys chemicals from others and also makes its own chemicals, Air Products is likely to face a complicated data collection process as a result of REACH and, according to Majors, toxicity testing alone will mean the company “bear significant financial costs”.

For more information visit http://ec.europa.eu/enterprise/reach/index or take a look at gasworld’s September feature, REACH – The controversial new EU regulation.