REACH is effective - Obligation to provide information on demand for more than one hundred chemicals

More stringent regulations on environmental toxins in outdoor clothing

Stricter regulations have come into effect on a number of chemicals, in accordance with the European REACH Regulation. The chemicals concerned include water- and oil-repellent substances as well as four perfluorinated carboxylic acids (PFCA). Because of their damaging effects on the environment, they have been classified as Substances of Very High Concern. PFCAs are also used in outdoor clothing. Consumers are now entitled to information about these chemicals from merchants and about 50 additional chemicals. The Federal Environment Agency (UBA) has been instrumental in the identification of these chemicals. Says Jochen Flasbarth, “If REACH is enforced to the extent possible, it proves to be an effective instrument in environmental and consumer protection. We can save a lot of costs in the areas of health and the environment through improved regulation of chemicals.”

Tougher provisions are in effect for four perfluorinated chemicals, which are used in outdoor clothing for their water-repellent properties. They are used because of their water-, dirt- and oil-repellent properties in a number of consumer goods such as textiles, pots and pans or paper. PFC are very stable in the environment and are therefore traceable in all environmental media worldwide, and in rivers and oceans in particular. PFC can accumulate along the entire food chain and have been traced in the blood and breast milk of humans and animals. This is why four chemicals in the group have been classified as Substances of Very High Concern and have been added to the ⁠REACH⁠ Candidate List by a Member State commission of the ECHA chemicals agency.

This ECHA commission of Member States has evaluated six dossiers from UBA. In addition to the four PFC, nonylphenol and the group of octylphenol ethoxylates were put on the Candidate List. Nonylphenol is an endocrine disruptor, which is used as an additive in the manufacture of textiles, resins and paints. Octylphenol ethoxylates are also present in varnishes, paints and adhesives. The endocrine disruptive octylphenol can form if it enters sewage treatment plants and bodies of water through industrial effluent. The commission has identified 54 additional chemicals as Substances of Very High Concern. The EU Commission goal to place 136 chemicals on the List by the end of the year has thus been achieved.

The REACH Candidate List features chemicals with carcinogenic, mutagenic and reprotoxic properties; chemicals that are persistent, toxic and which accumulate in organisms, and - based on an individual evaluation - chemicals that are endocrine active. Their inclusion on the Candidate List grants consumers the right to information. Upon consumer request manufacturers, importers or merchants must disclose whether a product contains Substances of Very High Concern. The easiest way to access this information is by completing a form available at The product number under the bar code is enough to send a query to the manufacturer. Furthermore, the chemicals on the List may be subject to authorisation, which requires prior approval from the authorities before they are marketed and used. The goal of the REACH Regulation is to phase in the use of suitable alternative chemicals and technologies to replace the chemicals on the list.

Jochen Flasbarth comments, “There is still much to be done to protect man and the environment from the harmful effects of chemicals. The Member States, the EU Commission and ECHA are continuing their intensive efforts to expand the Candidate List. The EU Commission has set the goal of placing all relevant Substances of Very High Concern on the Candidate List by 2020. Discussions at EU level are in progress about how this goal can best be achieved.”

UBA played a key role in the identification of Substances of Very High Concern. Since REACH entered into force in mid-2006 it has set up dossiers for 18 chemicals, 13 of which have been registered on the Candidate List. Says Jochen Flasbarth, “UBA has done pioneering work with regard to REACH. Octyl- and nonylphenol are the first chemicals on the Candidate List which classify as Substances of Very High Concern on grounds of their endocrine activity alone.” Octylphenol ethoxylates are the first group of chemicals to be classified as Substances of Very High Concern exclusively on the basis of their environmentally relevant degradation product (octylphenol).

Umweltbundesamt Hauptsitz

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