REACH: Federal Environment Agency lists more “Substances of Very High Concern“

Materials in outdoor clothing, floor coverings and varnishes in the spotlight

Two endocrine disruptive chemicals which are sometimes used in paints and varnishes are slated to be classified as Substances of Very High Concern. Germany, upon recommendation of the Federal Environment Agency (UBA), is thereby complying with the guidelines of the European Chemicals Agency (ECHA). Germany has submitted a total of eight proposals for inclusion on the Candidate List of Substances of Very High Concern, some of which are used in outdoor apparel and floor coverings to give them water, stain and grease resistant properties. Says UBA President Jochen Flasbarth: “We support strict regulation in the EU of substances that are endocrine disruptive, persistent and bioaccumulative.” Associations, businesses and the members of the public are invited to respond to these proposals on the ECHA webpage. Consumers can now obtain information about the presence of Substances of Very High Concern in everyday products by entering the product barcode at

Endocrine disruptive chemicals are present in many everyday products. They spread in the environment and can cause considerable damage in organisms. Take the example of nonylphenol, a chemical whose use has been banned in a wide range of applications. Traces of it can nevertheless be found in bodies of water - sometimes in high concentrations. Manufacturers use the chemical as an additive in textile production and in resins and varnishes. Scientific studies have proven that nonylphenol impacts the endocrine system in fish and damages development and reproduction at even low concentrations. Octylphenol ethoxylates, which are used in paints, varnishes and adhesives, pose a similar problem. The endocrine disruptive octylphenol can form when they enter sewage treatment plants and bodies of water via wastewater systems. Octylphenol already impacts reproduction and development in fish at low concentrations.

The total of 54 newly proposed Substances of Very High Concern identified by EU Member States and the ECHA include several per- and polyfluorinated chemicals, or PFC. Because of their water, stain and grease resistant properties, they are used in outdoor clothing, cooking utensils and paper. Many PFC are so stable that they do not degrade in the environment, which is why they can be traced worldwide, especially in rivers and oceans. Traces of PFC can also be found in human and animal blood. Experts are particularly critical of their persistence (several years) in human blood.

The European Regulation on chemicals ⁠REACH⁠ makes provisions for broad public participation. Businesses, environmental and consumer associations, local authorities and private citizens may submit comments to the proposals for a period of 45 days. Representatives of EU Member States will then take a decision on whether to classify a chemical as a Substance of Very High Concern. If the vote is positive, ECHA puts the chemical on the Candidate List. Companies have an obligation to provide information to consumers about all substances on the List. Merchants have free consumer information about whether and at what concentrations any substance of very high concern is present in a given product. The easiest way to find out is by doing a REACH query at In many cases, entering the product barcode is enough to send an email query to the producer.

Umweltbundesamt Hauptsitz

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