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Article related to: Communicating about safety
Communication about Candidate List substances in products must improve
A Forum pilot enforcement project highlights big gaps in how companies communicate about Candidate List substances in articles throughout the supply chain. We spoke with Karin Rumar, the Forum Working Group Chair for the Substances in Articles pilot project, to learn how to improve the situation.
The focus of the project was on the notification and communication obligations related to the Candidate List substances of very high concern (SVHC) in products as defined under REACH. 15 countries participated in the project.
Including a substance in the Candidate List does not mean that it cannot be included in products available on the European Market. But, if a product contains a Candidate List substance in concentrations above 0.1 percent weight by weight, according to REACH, it triggers information obligations for the supplier.
“Companies supplying products that contain Candidate List substances have to inform their professional customers about the presence of these substances at the latest when they supply them. Also, as a concerned consumer, you have the right to ask if the products you buy contain Candidate List substances in concentrations above 0.1 percent weight by weight, and retailers have to give you that information within 45 days. Our aim with the pilot project was to find out how well companies are aware of these obligations and how well they comply with them,” Ms Rumar explains.
|Karin Rumar. |
|“Suppliers need to step up and comply with their duties to provide information. They need to give the information about Candidate List substances in products to their customers.”|
In addition, companies have to notify ECHA if the substances are present in products above the same concentration level and produced or imported in quantities above one tonne per year.
Scope of the inspections
The inspections took place from October 2017 to December 2018, while the reporting of results and preparation of the report was done from January until November 2019. Altogether, 405 companies were inspected and 682 products were checked.
“The project focused on four main groups of products. The first was consumer products such as clothing, footwear and home textiles. The second included electrical products and the inspectors paid particular attention to cables made from soft plastic material. The third group contained building and interior products where they mostly looked at plastic products but also upholstery in furniture and other foam materials. And the final group was mostly other plastic and rubber products,” Ms Rumar tells.
Communication between companies must improve
The findings of the pilot project clearly show that communication between companies needs to improve.
“In most cases, where the information obligation existed, the companies did not fulfil their duties. These results show that there are big gaps in communication through the supply chain,” Ms Rumar says.
In almost all the cases where the customer was informed about the presence of the Candidate List substance, the information was limited to the name of the substance. However, in some cases, the supplier should also have given instructions on safe use.
The obligation to notify ECHA of Candidate List substances in articles did not apply in most cases that were part of the pilot project. In those cases where the obligation existed, companies had complied with the duty.
During the pilot project, inspectors also carried out random analytical tests to check the inspected products. These checks showed that for up to 89 percent of the products, the presence of the Candidate List substance was not in line with the information given by the supplier.
Demanding more from suppliers
According to Ms Rumar, both the companies supplying and receiving products containing Candidate List substances should take steps to improve the information flow in the supply chain.
“Suppliers need to step up and comply with their duties to provide information. They need to give the information about Candidate List substances in products to their customers. However, companies buying these products should also take action. They need to make sure to choose their suppliers wisely and set clear demands for them,” Ms Rumar explains.
But to know for sure what the products contain, both the companies and national enforcement authorities should also carry out random chemical analyses on products. “This is necessary, because the inspectors noted that it is not enough to check the paperwork to be able to get relevant findings.”
Another dimension to this are the consumers. They have a right to ask if products they intend to buy contain Candidate List substances. “The results show that they do not always get the right information from the retailer because the companies do not necessarily know that their products contain these substances,” Ms Rumar points out.
During the inspections, many companies indicated that they do not want to sell products that contain Candidate List substances. “It could be a wise choice for companies to substitute these substances with safer alternatives already at this point. This would save them from applying for a possible authorisation at a later stage or making efforts to comply with a potential restriction,” Ms Rumar concludes.
The project report with complete findings and recommendations as well as detailed numbers of inspections and rates for non-compliance, will be published on ECHA’s website in late November 2019.
The term ‘product’ in this text refers to an article, defined by REACH as ‘an object which during production is given a special shape, surface or design which determines its function to a greater degree than does its chemical composition’.
Did you know?
The legal basis comes from Article 33 of REACH, which states that substances placed on the Candidate List may be present in articles. However, companies are obliged to inform their professional recipients of the article if the Candidate List substance is contained in the article in concentrations above 0.1 percent weight by weight. If a consumer asks, they have to be informed within 45 days, free of charge, according to Article 33(2).
Article 7(2) states that producers or importers of articles have to notify ECHA if Candidate List substances are present in the articles in concentrations above 0.1 percent weight by weight and in quantities over one tonne per producer or importer per year.
Interview by Päivi Jokiniemi
Published on: 14 November 2019
Top image: © Pexels/Pixabay
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