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Swedish Agency Publishes Results of Sweeping Consumer Product Investigations

The Swedish Chemicals Agency (SCA) has published the results of two investigations into a total of 335 consumer products. The first investigation concerned an inspection of 115 advertisement products handed out for free to consumers. Results showed that 17% contained prohibited substances. The second investigation concerned 220 consumer products and focused on substances on the REACH Regulation’s candidate list. These substances may currently be used but may face increased restrictions in the future. There is also an obligation to inform professional buyers of these substances if contained in products sold, and an obligation to inform consumers if they inquire about the content of the products. Many firms were found to be unaware of this obligation. 12% of products contained substances on the candidate list, and 6% contained prohibited substances, with some overlap between these groups. Hong Kong manufacturers and traders should consider minimizing the use of these substances in their products as demands from importers that they be excluded from raw materials and finished products are likely to grow.

The first investigation: The results of the SCA’s first investigation were published towards the end of February 2019; it was the first time the Swedish regulator had looked at products given away for free for advertisement purposes. The investigation covered products from 47 different companies. Among the 20 products containing prohibited substances, short chained chlorinated paraffins (SCCPs) in PVC plastics was the most common prohibited substance. The second most prevalent substance was lead found in soldering in circuit boards. Out of the eight products containing lead, four also contained other banned substances.

47% of the products were electronic products, 16% of which contained regulated substances. A third of the products were produced from PVC plastics, such as bags and reflectors, and 29% of these contained prohibited substances. Neither the nine toys investigated nor the remaining 13 products made from plastics, leather or metal contained prohibited substances.

The SCA also investigated whether the electronic products were properly labelled in accordance with the EU’s RoHS Directive. Out of the 55 electronic products from 33 different companies, only 35 items (63%) had correct labelling. Two products imported into the EU by Swedish companies had significant deficiencies and the SCA levied financial sanctions on the companies responsible.

Moreover, the provision by companies of products failing to meet the requirements of the REACH Regulation, the POPs Regulation or the RoHS Directive can amount to a criminal offence and these instances were therefore referred to the environmental prosecutor. In the case of the RoHS Directive, only the company which produces or imports the product would be held liable. In total, a prosecutorial referral was made for 17 out of 47 companies. An additional two companies had sold products which contained prohibited concentrations of lead; since this concerned electronic products, only the importers were liable.

The second investigation: The SCA published the results of its second investigation on 13 March 2019. The 220 products investigated were sourced from 80 companies, and included shoes, clothing and electronics. The table below describes the categories of product that were investigated as well as the share of the products containing prohibited substances, and the share of the products containing substances on the REACH candidate list:

Product category Products inspected Prohibited substances Candidate list substances
Home decoration1100
Soft plastics4910%12%
Sports articles532%11%
Flooring and walls1407%
Foamed plastics2000
Car interior decoration195%16%
Shoes, clothes, jewellery215%5%
Electronics3415%3%

 

The SCA also found that a third of the companies investigated were not aware of the duty to inform linked to the substances on the candidate list. Only 8 companies (10%) had received questions from consumers regarding the substances on the list. 18 companies said they had demanded from their suppliers that products not contain substances on the candidate list, however, 36% of these companies nevertheless sold products containing these substances.

The SCA referred 18 cases to prosecutors on suspicion of criminal offences. Among the products found to contain prohibited substances, 8 contained SCCPs and these were all made from PVC. Seven electric products were investigated, five of which contained prohibited concentrations of lead in their soldering. One PVC product also contained prohibited amounts of lead, while three PVC products contained prohibited amounts of cadmium.

PVC products were also the most problematic regarding the prevalence of substances on the candidate list. In total, 170 products made from soft plastics were investigated and among the 27 products containing substances on the candidate list, almost all were PVC products. The most common substance was the phthalate DEHP. All phthalates are not dangerous but they are thought to be potential hormone disruptors. Five products also contained the substance ADCA, which can cause allergies or asthma.

Content provided by Picture: HKTDC Research
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