24 March 2017
Irish Authorities Carry out Inspection on Restricted Chemicals and Survey on Consumers’ Awareness of the CE Mark
Two recent developments shed light on the importance that Irish enforcement authorities place on ensuring products comply with EU safety laws. First, the Health and Safety Authority of Ireland (HSA) has launched a large scale inspection aimed at cracking down on the illegal use of chemicals in jewellery, glues and adhesives. Second, in order to draw consumers’ attention to the importance of products conforming to EU standards, the National Standards Authority of Ireland (NSAI) has published some surprising results, pursuant to a survey on the ability of Irish consumers to recognise the CE mark.
As regards the crackdown on the illegal use of chemicals in products sold on the Irish market, it was announced on 5 December 2016 that Ireland’s HSA is carrying out an inspection campaign focusing on the presence of chemicals in jewellery, glues and adhesives, restricted under the EU’s REACH Regulation.
The chemicals benzene, chloroform and toluene are banned in glues and adhesives, while cadmium, nickel and lead are banned in jewellery. Irish authorities started checking for the presence of those restricted chemicals in products sold on the Irish market towards the end of 2016.
Manufacturers, importers and distributors of jewellery and glue products intended to be sold on the Irish market should already be aware of the legal requirements set out in the REACH Regulation on the registration, evaluation, authorisation and restriction of chemicals.
Yvonne Mullooly, Senior Inspector with the HSA, said that retailers should ensure with their suppliers that their existing stock is compliant and to remove any non-compliant stock from their shelves. The HSA is also encouraging importers, distributors and retailers to check weekly the EU RAPEX alert system. RAPEX provides a regularly updated list of goods which have been found not to comply with EU health and safety requirements.
The HSA’s inspection campaign is expected to play an important role in contributing to an ongoing EU-wide inspection drive launched by the European Chemicals Agency (ECHA) in early 2015. The inspection drive coordinated by ECHA’s Enforcement Forum, entitled REACH-EN-FORCE 4 (REF-4), calls on enforcement authorities in 29 European countries to inspect whether restrictions on fourteen different substances and the products that contain them, listed in Annex XVII of the REACH Regulation, are being complied with.
The list of targeted substances includes benzene and phthalates, as well as those mentioned above. Nevertheless national inspection authorities are free to choose to inspect compliance with other chemical restrictions as well.
Inspections under the REF-4 project have already taken place throughout the whole of 2016 and target different duty holders under REACH – for example, importers and distributors of articles that may contain the restricted substances. The results of the project and the final report are expected to become available in late 2017.
In a second development, also concerning the safety of products sold on the Irish market, the NSAI recently published the results of a survey revealing that almost half of Irish consumers cannot recognise the CE mark. 984 people participated in the online survey organised by the NSAI, with the objective of raising awareness and gaining better insight into the current state of consumer knowledge in Ireland.
As part of the survey, participants were asked to identify the real CE mark when placed side by side with a fake one. The core differences between the two images presented was the spacing between the lettering and a slight modification to their shape. The results of the survey showed that 49% of participants could not successfully distinguish the real mark from the fake one.
The survey’s results also highlighted that one in ten customers in Ireland never look for the CE mark when buying either toys or electrical products. Over half (56%) of the survey’s respondents said they always looked for the mark when shopping for such products, while a third said that they sometimes look for it depending on the product. Somewhat surprisingly, 92% of those who took part in the survey knew that ‘CE’ stands for ‘Conformité Europeenne’.
By law, in Ireland (as well as throughout the EU), every toy, electrical product and item of protective equipment such as swimming goggles or sunglasses, among other products, must display the CE safety mark either on the product itself or on its packaging. The CE mark is a declaration from the manufacturer that the product complies with EU safety standards.
Upon publication of the findings, CEO of NSAI, Maurice Buckley, warned customers not to buy products on which a genuine CE mark was not visible. He nevertheless warned that there is never a 100% guarantee that a product bearing the mark is safe because of the existence of counterfeiting or the misuse of the CE Mark.
The NSAI also called on customers to familiarise themselves with the CE mark, to check products carefully, to buy from trustworthy shops and online outlets, and to ensure that the full contact details of the manufacturer or importer are on the product or packaging before buying.