Regulatory enforcement action targets mixtures and imports

ESMA HSEP

by Elaine Campling, Chemical Compliance Advisory Services Ltd. and member of ESMA HSPE Committee

6th REACH Enforcement Project on classification & labelling of mixtures

The Sixth REACH Enforcement Project focused on classification and labelling of chemical mixtures. Chemical mixtures inspected included paints and paint removers, adhesives and sealants, room fragrances, air fresheners and biocidal products.

3,391 mixtures and 1,620 companies were examined by inspectors checking classification and labelling, exemptions for small packaging and application of harmonised classification. 

Companies inspected included manufacturers, importers, downstream users and distributors of mixtures. At least one non-conformance was found in 44% of mixtures, with 17% attributed to incorrect classification. Inspectors noted concern that incorrect classification resulted in incorrect labelling with potentially serious outcomes.

Enforcement projects are undertaken by the European Chemical Agency’s (ECHA) Forum for Exchange of Information on Enforcement (Forum) comprising one member from each European Member State and Norway, Iceland and Liechtenstein.

Pilot Forum Project: Collaboration with Customs on Imports

The current focus of the Forum is targeted on importers and internet sales, with greater involvement of Customs Authorities. A recent pilot project undertaken by the Forum uncovered some disturbing non-compliance issues associated with imported products. 

The Pilot Project involved Customs authorities to develop future cooperation models to improve regulatory enforcement. Almost 1400 imported products were checked by national enforcement authorities and customs inspectors in 16 EU Member States, while under customs supervision i.e. prior to entry on the European market.

Articles subject to REACH restriction (constituents) and labelling and packaging of substances and mixtures were targeted. 

“Customs inspectors and national enforcement authorities in 16 European Union Member States checked almost 1,400 products for compliance with REACH and CLP.”

More than 23% of products inspected were found to be non-compliant, following checks made at strategic entrance points, including airports, harbours and inland customs offices.

REACH compliance checks focused on the presence of cadmium, lead and nickel in articles, which are subject to restriction of use within the EU:

  • 17 % of the products checked were found to contain restricted substances above the permitted level, in breach of the REACH Regulation

“The majority of the products were checked for restriction obligations (79 %) and those found to be non-compliant (74 %) mostly came from China, as well as from the United Arab Emirates, India, Thailand, North Macedonia and Madagascar.”

The following was also noted:

“… a significant number of imported products are in breach of REACH restrictions and would put the health of those buying the products at risk if the products entered the market.”

Of the 167 products checked for compliance with CLP, 64 % were found to be non-compliant, mostly related to labelling requirements:

  • Not labelled in the language of the Member State where the product was being placed on the market
  • Incorrect or missing hazard pictograms and signal words on the hazard label

It is the importers responsibility to ensure that chemical substances, chemical mixtures and articles containing chemical substances are in compliance with REACH and CLP. 

Importers will be subject to more scrutiny going forward:

“Targeted enforcement and more stringent enforcement is required at European points entrance points”.

Advice to consumers

Consumers are advised to feel reassured by the plan to undertake more frequent checks of imported products. However, they are also recommended to purchase preferentially from “known and trustworthy” suppliers.

Consumers are also advised that they can and should ask retailers for more information on the hazardous properties of the chemicals that are used in the products they purchase.

The Scan4Chem smartphone app is also mentioned in media covering the Pilot Project. The app can be used to check whether a particular product e.g. a toy contains REACH substances of very high concern (SVHC). If the details for a particular product are not incorporated with the app, the consumer can scan the product barcode and send a request for information regarding the presence of SVHCs above the 0.1% threshold. 

ESMA has previously discussed the app in the Health, Safety and Environmental Protection Committee (HSEP). HSEP is a strategic regulatory committee focused on finding solutions to regulatory problems and developing compliance initiatives. All ESMA Member Companies are welcome to attend the HSEP Committee. 

Further reading

https://echa.europa.eu/-/1-in-4-imported-products-found-to-be-non-compliant-with-reach-and-clp

https://chemicalsinourlife.echa.europa.eu/are-imported-products-safe-

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