The European Union continues to stay on track to improve environmental sustainability. Over the years, the EU has done commendable work in chemical management – identifying hazardous substances and chemicals, funding research to find safe alternatives, systematically phasing out the use, distribution and movement of hazardous substances and chemicals.
In its latest endeavour to further track down dangerous chemicals in products, the European Chemicals Agency (ECHA), on October 28, 2020, launched a database for Substances of Concern in articles as such, or in complex objects (products) including those intended for consumers.
SCIP database will track down dangerous chemicals
The database is known as the SCIP database. The SCIP database was set up under the EU’s Waste Framework Directive (WFD) which requires industry to submit certain information on substances of very high concern listed on ECHA’s Candidate List in products as from 5 January 2021. Consumers and waste operators will then be able to access the SCIP database from February 2021. The aim of the database is to facilitate access to information about dangerous chemicals in products and make the recycling of products safer, by allowing consumers and waste operators to easily access information about dangerous chemicals in products.
Suppliers to the EU are already required to provide information on hazardous substances that are contained in articles (including all consumer goods) to their customers, and to consumers upon request. As from 5 January 2021, any EU producer, assembler, importer or distributor, the so called “duty holders”, must submit the same information they are already obliged to communicate under the REACH Regulation, to the SCIP database. This information requirement is triggered when a duty holder puts products (articles) on the EU market which contain any of the Candidate List SVHCs in a concentration of above 0.1% weight for weight. Information for the database must be provided for the article as such but also for the complex object if the article as such is integrated into a complex object (product).
For the SCIP database, duty holders will need to supply information to identify the article and a description of its characteristics; the name, concentration range and material category where the Candidate List substance is present; and any other information to allow for the safe use of the article as well as proper waste treatment. Articles for which information needs to be submitted as from 5 January 2021, include complex objects such as toys, items of clothing, electronic and sports equipment or furniture.
In order to protect confidential business information, the database does not disclose the link between the SCIP information and its submitters. However, it is the responsibility of the duty holder to prepare the dossiers so the fields that will be published do not contain sensitive or confidential information. ECHA will publish the information provided precisely as ECHA receives it.
In order to avoid last minute submissions to the SCIP database and ensure that all relevant information is uploaded in time, submissions to the SCIP database have already been allowed from the date of the launch, i.e., from 28 October 2020. Information can be submitted via the IUCLID tool developed by ECHA in cooperation with the OECD. Bjorn Hansen, ECHA’s Executive Director, urged
industry to start submitting the relevant information as soon as possible, ahead of the January 2021 deadline. Meanwhile, reports indicate that ECHA is asking companies to get in touch in advance of uploading large volumes of data for fear that large uploads could overload the system.
In late September 2020, 40 manufacturing industry organisations wrote to the European Commission, urging it to delay the introduction of the SCIP database by one year. The industry letter outlined that industry felt unable to comply with the new information requirements due to months of delays in the roll out of the database. The additional administrative burden, they argued, was substantial, and uploading all relevant data would take time.
ECHA has announced that it took into account feedback from industry in the development process of the database and developed mechanisms to simplify the work for companies. This includes, among other features, a system to system submission function which helps companies submit notifications in an automated way. The database also permits different companies to work together and submit notifications by referring to data already available on the SCIP database, according to ECHA.
Limiting consumer exposure to CMR chemicals in clothing
The clothing, textiles and footwear industries have become newly impacted by Commission Regulation (EU) 2018/1513, which modifies Annex XVII to the EU’s REACH Regulation (EC) 1907/2006. Regulation 2018/ 1513 was published in October 2018 and revises Annex XVII by inserting a new entry (Entry 72) that entered into effect on 1 November 2020.
This new entry impacts textiles, clothing, related accessories and footwear by limiting consumer exposure to 33 Carcinogenic, Mutagenic or Toxic for reproduction (CMR) chemicals. The covered substances can be found in Appendix 12 of the REACH Regulation.
The CMR chemicals are, for the most part, said to be used in the dyeing of clothing. Among them is cadmium, which sometimes intervenes in the manufacture of specific
pigments, or Chromium VI and its compounds which are used as fixing agents in many processes. The other functions of the substances affected by this restriction are mostly material finishing, fibre production and some substances which are assimilated to impurities. This development will have consequences for placing clothing or footwear on the EU
market. Annex XVII to the REACH Regulation lists the restrictions applying to a number of substances, as well as mixtures or articles that contain them. These restrictions aim at limiting the use, manufacture or placing on the market of these products by imposing either outright bans or else specific restrictive conditions.
The new restrictions cover the following articles if the clothing, related accessory, textiles other than clothing or footwear is for use by consumers and the substance is present in a concentration, measured in homogeneous material, equal to or greater than that specified for that substance in Appendix 12:
- Clothing and related accessories, such as tops, shirts, blouses, underwear, nightwear, hosiery (e.g. socks, pantyhose, stockings, leggings), trousers, pants, jackets, coats, raincoats, capes, dresses, skirts, suits, sportswear, swimwear (e.g. swimsuits, bikinis, swimming trunks), gloves (including latex gloves not covered by Regulation (EU) 2016/425 on personal protective equipment or Regulation (EU) 2017/745 on medical devices), mittens, muffs, scarves, shawls, veils, bags, handbags, backpacks, briefcases, wristwatch straps, fancy dress and disguise costumes.
- Textiles other than clothing which come into contact with the human skin under normal or reasonably foreseeable condition of use to an extent similar to clothing, such as bed linen (e.g. sheets, duvet covers, pillowcases), blankets, throws, upholstery (fabric covering chairs, armchairs and sofas), cushion covers, bathrobes, towels, re-usable nappies and sanitary towels, sleeping bags, yarn and fabrics intended for use by the final consumer.
- Prints and coating applied directly on textile article surfaces (such as decorations or logos) are covered by the restriction.
- In the case of formaldehyde, due to the lack of information on suitable alternatives, a less stringent concentration will apply, for a limited period, to this substance in jackets, coats or upholstery in order to allow operators to adapt to the restriction.
Articles not covered by the restriction:
- Accessories not related to clothing, such as jewellery, glasses, and sunglasses.
- Wall-to-wall carpets and textile floor coverings for indoor use, rugs and runners.
- Textile lampshades and wall decorations.
- Napkins and table linen.
- Filling materials in chairs, armchairs, and sofas.
- Clothing, related accessories or footwear, or parts thereof, made exclusively of natural leather, fur or hide.
- Non-textile fasteners or decorative attachments (other than prints) , such as buttons, zips, Velcro, rivets, press studs, clasps or buckles, fasteners, eye(let)s, snap fasteners, toggles, hooks, rings, sequins, beads, pearls, stones or metallic mesh. Prints and coatings are not considered decorative attachments in the sense of this exemption.
- Second-hand clothing, related accessories, textiles other than clothing or footwear. Disposable textiles. These are defined as textiles that are designed to be used only once or for a limited time and are not intended for subsequent use for the same or a similar purpose.
- Articles within the scope of Regulation (EU) 2016/425 on personal protective equipment.
- Articles within the scope of Regulation (EU) 2017/745 on medical devices.
An explanatory guide on the restriction has been endorsed by the competent authorities for REACH and CLP (CARACAL). It aims to clarify the scope of the articles intended to be covered by the restriction and provides a list of available analytical methods in certain matrixes that can be used for the determination of the different substances.