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Denmark Investigates Carcinogenic PAHs in Consumer Products, Including in Footwear and Toys

PAHs are organic compounds containing two or more fused aromatic rings, which, in processed articles, may exist in the following: creosote, medicines, dyes, plastics, rubbers, pesticides, lubricants, release agents, capacitance electrolytes, mineral oil, pitch, insecticides, bactericides, mosquito-repellent incense, cigarettes, and petrol antifreeze, given that the raw materials are coal, crude oil and tar.

Many PAHs are considered carcinogenic. Exposure and contact with skin and the respiratory system are thought to cause reproduction toxicity in humans. For this reason, among others, the European Commission published Regulation 1272/2013 to amend entry 50 of Annex XVII of the REACH Regulation on the restriction of Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbons (“the Regulation”).

The Regulation restricts the content of PAHs in rubber and plastic components of an article which comes into direct as well as prolonged or short-term repetitive contact with the human skin or the oral cavity under normal or reasonably foreseeable conditions of use.

Of particular note to businesses, eight PAHs are concerned by the restrictions: (i) Benzo[a]pyrene (BaP); (ii) Benzo[e]pyrene (BeP); (iii) Benzo[a]anthracene (BaA); (iv) Chrysen (CHR); (v) Benzo[b]fluoranthene (BbFA); (vi) Benzo[j]fluoranthene (BjFA); (vii) Benzo[k]fluoranthene (BkFA); and (viii) Dibenzo[a,h]anthracene (DBAhA).

Sellers of toys and childcare articles should note that the limit of PAH for these products is set at 0.5 mg/kg, whereas the limit is set at 1 mg/kg for all other covered articles supplied to the general public. For guidance purposes, Hong Kong sellers may like to know that the following articles, among others, may be affected by the Regulation: (i) sports equipment (e.g. bicycles, golf clubs, racquets); (ii) households utensils, trolleys and walking frames; (iii) tools for domestic use; (iv) clothing, footwear, gloves and sportswear; and (v) watch-straps, wrist-bands and head-bands.

The requirements set forth in the Regulation entered into force in December 2015.

The investigation carried out by the Danish Environmental Protection Agency’s Chemicals Inspectorate sought to verify that the content of PAHs in consumer products made of plastic, rubber and neoprene complied with the requirements laid out in the Regulation. During its investigation, the Chemicals Inspectorate checked 33 different consumer products used for private consumption in different locations, including electronics shops, sports outlets, toy stores and shoe stores.

It may be of interest to know that the products investigated included flippers (for swimming or diving), other footwear made of plastic or rubber, bicycle handles and other rubber handles on tools, and rubber parts of toys.

Following its investigation regarding PAH content in consumer products, the Danish Environmental Protection Agency’s Chemicals Inspectorate found that three products were in breach of the Regulation. It should be noted that, once goods are found to be in breach of the Regulation, they are removed from the market. In this case, the three products that were removed comprised an ankle strap, a flashlight with rubber, and a hand-held tool.

Content provided by Picture: HKTDC Research
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