The European Chemicals Agency (ECHA) has found that hundreds of products are in breach of the Registration, Evaluation, Authorisation and Restriction of Chemicals (REACH) regulations, and has advised companies to obtain information on the chemical composition of their products from suppliers[i].
ECHA’s Enforcement Forum coordinated the REACH-En-Force project to test consumer products for 22 chemicals restricted under REACH, including asbestos, benzene, lead, phthalates and toluene[ii]. The types of products inspected included textile, jewelry, plastic material, glues and spray paints, brazing fillers, toys and childcare articles. In total, 5,625 products were checked.
Overall, 82% of the products checked complied with the inspected REACH restrictions, and 18% did not. This non-compliance rate is high, considering that the REACH restrictions have been assigned to uses of chemicals with the highest risks to health or the environment. The highest non-compliance rates in the scope of the project were:
- 19.7% of toys were non-compliant with the requirement that phthalates are in concentrations with a maximum of 0.1%, and 10.4% of toys that could be put into the mouth of children were non-compliant with the limit on phthalate exposure;
- 14.1% of brazing fillers were non-compliant and contained cadmium;
- 13.6% of products were non-compliant, as they tested positive for asbestos (29 out of 213). This rate is high, considering that asbestos has been restricted in the EU for many years. The non-compliant articles were mostly from the second-hand market and it is possible that the articles may have been produced before asbestos was restricted;
- 13.3% of leather articles were non-compliant and contained chromium;
- 11.1% of metal parts of clothes were non-compliant and contained nickel;
- 7.9% of articles tested for polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons were non-compliant;
- 88.5% of the 392 product checks for measuring devices were non-compliant – most products contained levels of mercury above the allowed limit (thermometers).
Of the products that breached the restrictions, 17% were imported from China and the origin could not be traced in 39% of products.
Kevin Buckley, the Health and Safety Association’s (HAS) Senior Inspector, said:
‘Importers, manufacturers and distributors should be aware of the legal requirements governing the safety of products containing restricted chemicals. Retailers selling the products should check with their suppliers to ensure that their existing stock is compliant and all non-compliant stock should be removed from the shelves’.[iii]
[i] Restricted chemicals prevalent in EU goods. IOSH Magazine. 21 March 2018 https://www.ioshmagazine.com/article/restricted-chemicals-prevalent-eu-goods (Accessed 23 March 2018)
[ii] Forum Ref-4 Project Report Harmonised Enforcement Project on Restrictions. Version 1.0. February 2018 https://echa.europa.eu/documents/10162/13577/ref_4_report_en.pdf/b53f5cd9-64a4-c120-1953-e9e176b9c282 (Accessed 28 March 2018)
[iii] Ibid IOSH Magazine