IHS Chemical Week


Reach: Candidate List to Double as More SVHCs are Included, Suppliers of Articles Beware

4:25 AM MST | January 6, 2010 | By LISA ALLEN

This month, as the holiday season draws to a close, The European Chemicals Agency, (ECHA; Helsinki), will give us all a belated New Year’s gift in its updated Candidate List for Authorisation. The publication of the revised list adds fifteen new substances of very high concern (SVHCs) to those fifteen included in October 2008.

Reach is a piece of European law with the word “Chemicals” in its title. So it probably comes as little surprise that many companies do not realise that perhaps the widest-reaching activity affected by updates to the Reach Candidate List is the supply of finished goods and components. Despite there being few substances on the current list, many suppliers of non-chemical products will have new duties with each update. So if life for industry wasn’t already tough enough with the global recession and rising energy prices, many companies will soon have something else to contend with.

Under Reach, the publication of the Candidate List triggers immediate legal obligations on European suppliers of “articles” – an object special shape, surface or design is more important to its function than the chemical composition – containing those SVHCs:

Article 33 of Reach requires any company in the EEA (that’s the EU Member States, plus Iceland, Norway and Liechtenstein) supplying articles containing more than 0.1% w/w of a Candidate List substance must give their customers (not consumers) enough information to ensure safe use and to include, as a minimum, the name of the substance. If a consumer asks, they also have the right to the same information within 45 days of the request.

Wholesale and retail suppliers – both multinational and European domestic – often sell thousands of products manufactured within and imported into the EEA from all over the world, so keeping track of which of their products are affected by the Candidate List publication is no easy task – especially as the Candidate List will continue to grow.  But non-EEA supplies won’t get let off the supply chain hook too easily.  Companies selling into Europe should expect their European customers to contact them more frequently with requests for information on product composition or testing, calls for product re-design (with no or, at most, a minimal cost increase?) and potential negotiation on maintaining, updating, or even terminating, contracts of supply.  Despite having no legal jurisdiction outside the EEA, Reach certainly, well, reaches industry in the rest of the world.

The latter part of 2009 saw a marked increase in political activity with regard to Candidate List substances in consumer products. In Sweden, a footwear supplier and two retailers featured in the Reach news arena after some of their shoes were found by an NGO to contain phthalates included on the Candidate List.  In the UK, an environmental NGO asked fourteen retailers whether floor coverings they sell contain Candidate List substances – naming those companies who responded, and those who didn’t. Similar activity has also been reported in the Czech Republic, and a prominent German NGO is also now encouraging consumers to ask companies about SVHCs in their products and name those which don’t respond...

So we are already seeing mounting political pressure on goods suppliers throughout Europe, which will have a knock-on effect on companies in the rest of the world.  I wouldn’t be at all surprised if this aspect of REACH is where we will see a significant amount of Reach pressure, and maybe even a few legal challenges, in the first half of 2010.  Reach registration is certainly high on many companies’ “To Do in 2010” lists, but let’s hope they have also included in their New Year’s Resolutions to react suitably to those three short paragraphs in Article 33.


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