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Benefits and Costs of Regulating and Restricting Chemicals: The European Union’s REACH System and Its Effects on the Austrian Economy

Michael Getzner and Denise Schulz-Zak

Journal of Benefit-Cost Analysis, 2018, vol. 9, issue 3, 462-495

Abstract: The European Union’s regulation for chemical safety (REACH) addresses the registration, evaluation, assessment, and consequent authorization (or restriction) of chemicals which are potentially harmful for both public health and the environment. The current study aims at ascertaining the costs and benefits of the REACH framework for the Austrian economy under major uncertainties, and draws on a wide range of databases on public and workplace health, chemical accidents in households, and the potential environmental impacts of harmful chemicals.The uncertainties in the REACH system assessments of the effects of chemicals on health lie not only in the insufficiency of scientific evidence but also in the economic evaluation of effects on health, especially in regard to the value of statistical life (VSL), and the economic value of diseases attributed to chemicals.This benefit-cost analysis (BCA) of the REACH system in Austria therefore takes into account these manifold uncertainties by designing a conservative baseline scenario and by varying all determinants in comprehensive sensitivity analyses. Projected over a period of about 30 years, this paper provides evidence that the REACH system most probably leads to net benefits for the Austrian economy (benefit-cost ratio of about 10.6) even though many benefits are still highly uncertain or unknown.

Date: 2018
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