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ECHA Launches Investigation into “PAH” Limits for All Kinds of Consumer Goods, from Textile Products and Footwear to Toys and Childcare Articles

On 1 June 2017, the European Chemicals Agency (ECHA) launched a call for evidence in respect of a substance that can be found in toys, childcare articles and several other consumer goods. ECHA has stated that it would like to gather information on the content of individual polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) and analytical methods used to establish this content. It would also like to be informed of the current availability of suitable, alternative low-PAH raw materials, particularly carbon black and extender oils, used to manufacture rubber and plastic components.

ECHA’s call for evidence is aimed at interested parties such as companies (manufacturers, suppliers, distributors, importers, etc.), trade associations, scientific bodies, Member State competent authorities, customs, and any other stakeholders holding relevant information. ECHA is acting upon the request of the European Commission to investigate the content of individual PAHs in the light of new scientific information.

As manufacturers of several consumer goods destined for the EU market, including toys, childcare articles, sports equipment, household utensils and clothing, Hong Kong companies may like to participate in the call for evidence from ECHA. 

Hong Kong traders may know that the placing on the market for supply to the general public of articles containing PAHs is already restricted by entry 50 of Annex XVII to Regulation 1907/2006 (the REACH Regulation). The maximum content limits for each of the listed PAHs in articles that are used by the general public are set out in paragraphs 5 and 6 of Entry 50 of Annex XVII.

Hong Kong traders should be aware that the restriction applies to articles placed on the market for supply to the general public. Thus, it will apply if any of the articles’ rubber or plastic components that come into direct as well as prolonged contact or short-term repetitive contact with human skin or the oral cavity, under normal or reasonably foreseeable conditions of use, contain more than 1 mg/kg (0.0001% by weight of this component) of any of the 8 PAHs that are identified in Column 1 of the Entry.

The restriction also applies to toys and childcare articles, but with a lower concentration limit, namely, of 0.5 mg/kg. The reason behind this lower allowed amount is that exposure to PAHs may affect children more than adults.

The Entry in Annex XVII includes a detailed but non-exhaustive list of types of articles which fall within the scope of the restriction:

  • Sports equipment such as bicycles, golf clubs, racquets, training equipment, yoga mats, gym balls, snorkelling equipment, goggles and diving glasses, helmets, knee and elbow protectors.
  • Household utensils such as trolleys, walking frames, handheld game consoles, PC keyboards, PC mouses, TV/audio-visual remote controls, cases of mobile and portable devices, such as notebook and tablet computers, smartphones or cameras.
  • Tools for domestic use, such as gardening tools and equipment, shovels, spades, hoses, watering cans, wheelbarrows, lawnmowers and grass-cutters as well as handheld electrical tools, such as power drills.
  • Clothing, footwear, gloves and sportswear, such as sandals, flip-flops, shoes, rubber boots, clogs, gloves (including protective gloves), underwear, prints of T-Shirts and other clothing, weather protection garments, such as jackets, pants and hats, wet suits, flippers/ fins, protection clothing, such as knee or elbow covers, hearing protections, and socks.
  • Watch-straps, wrist-bands, masks, head-bands such as headphones, and pulse monitors.
  • Toys and childcare articles, such as balls, plastic or rubber figurines, toy cars and trains, run bikes and toy scooters, toy guns, rubber balloons, baby walkers, paddling pools for play, bath toys, buggies, prams, baby carriages, pushchairs and strollers, teething rings, cots, cribs, pillows and mattresses, swings, slides and climbing frames, and toy musical instruments, such as trumpets, blows, shakes, maracas, guitars, flutes and tambourines.

The call for information ends on 31 July 2017. ECHA is then expected to deliver an evaluation report no later than 30 November 2017 to the European Commission. In the light of new scientific information, ECHA will advise the European Commission on the possible reduction in the PAH content limits in articles covered by paragraphs 5 and 6.

Pursuant to paragraph 8 of entry 50 of Annex XVII, the European Commission must review the limits relative to maximum PAH content by 27 December 2017. Based on ECHA’s report, the European Commission will consider whether to launch the procedure to amend the maximum PAH content limits in paragraphs 5 and 6 of entry 50 including, potentially, introducing a maximum PAH migration limit.

Readers can click on the following to view the REACH Regulation. Companies may submit their contributions to ECHA’s call on the relevant ECHA webpage.

Content provided by Picture: HKTDC Research
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