Restricted Chemicals Prevalent in EU Goods

Restricted Chemicals Prevalent in EU Goods

  • Date: Friday 13th April 2018
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The European Chemicals Agency (ECHA) has advised companies to obtain information on the chemical composition of their products from suppliers after a project found hundreds of products in breach of the EU chemical safety regulation REACH.

5,625 consumer products such as plastics, glues, spray paints, brazing fillers, textiles, jewellery and toys were tested for 22 restricted chemicals including asbestos, benzene, lead, phthalates and toluene. Overall, 18% did not comply with the REACH restrictions. 

The ECHA said the non-compliance rate “was high considering that REACH restrictions have been assigned to uses of chemicals with the highest risks to health or the environment”. 

The most frequent breaches were: phthalates in toys (20% of inspected toys contained phthalates at levels above those permitted), cadmium in brazing fillers (14%) and asbestos fibres in products (14%). Inspectors also found high concentrations of chromium VI in leather goods and cadmium, lead and nickel in jewellery. Non-compliant products have subsequently been removed from the market.

The ECHA said asbestos-containing products, for example catalytic heaters, thermos flasks and brake pads, were likely to be second-hand and manufactured before the restrictions prohibiting the sale of products containing asbestos came into force. 

Most of the products that breached chemical restrictions had been imported from China (17%), or their origins could not be traced (39%).  

These findings highlight companies’ responsibility to get information on the chemical composition of their products from their suppliers. This may also include proactively testing products and making agreements with suppliers so that the chemical composition complies with the chemicals legislation. 

Importers, manufacturers and distributors should be aware of the legal requirements governing the safety of products containing restricted chemicals. Retailers selling 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. 

Consumers can check the EU’s RAPEX system on the web, where potentially hazardous consumer products, identified across the EU, are listed weekly.

Source: IOSH Magazine

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