Brussels 29 September 2022 – According to Cefic’s latest analysis of data from the EU’s Safety Gate on non-compliance with EU chemicals legislation, there has been a four-fold increase of chemicals not compliant with the REACH legislation from products labelled with an “unknown” origin over just two years. This is most likely due to increased online shopping since the COVID-19 pandemic. Not knowing the origins of these products containing non-compliant chemicals reduces the EU’s ability to monitor online markets and improve the safety of products.
Sylvie Lemoine, Cefic Executive Director Product Stewardship, commented: “Regulation only makes sense if it is accompanied by enforcement. It is striking that with online sales, the origin of many of the products entering the bloc is unknown. We continue to call for stronger surveillance and enforcement efforts, particularly on imported goods and online sales. As online shopping grows, it is a matter of consumer safety.”
Here are some of the key findings of Cefic’s analysis:
- The percentage of chemicals not compliant with the REACH legislation in products with “unknown” origins has increased four-fold in two years; from 4% in 2019 to 18% in 2021.
- The most common chemical non-compliance, roughly 25%, were restricted phthalates, followed by heavy metals (cadmium, lead), which are also reprotoxic. The most common restricted phthalate was bis(2-ethylhexyl) phthalate, or DEHP, a substance that has been restricted in Europe for years, but still frequently shows up in plastic dolls imported from China.
These conclusions come not only from the Safety Gate analysis but are corroborated by studies from Nordic Member States. While ECHA’s EU-wide REF-8 pilot project on enforcement of online sales is a step in the right direction, we call for actions to be prioritised which better enforce EU chemicals legislation. This is particularly important as restrictions increasingly address groups of chemicals in different uses (e.g. microplastics) and will become even more generic in the upcoming revision of REACH.
Those actions, echoed by recommendations issued by the Chemicals Strategy for Sustainability High-Level Round Table, should include, among others, tightened controls of imports (online marketplaces); ensuring new restrictions are enforceable by developing standard control methods and lab capacity; sufficient resources and funding for enforcement; and improving coordination and sharing data to further support enforcement actions.