EU REACH Project Finds Companies Handling Banned Substances

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By Stephen Gardner

A small number of companies in the European Union are flouting rules on substances phased out from use in the bloc under the REACH regulation, the European Chemicals Agency said June 22.

In a report on a coordinated enforcement project that involved authorities in 17 of the EU’s 28 countries, the chemicals agency said 802 inspections turned up five companies that were illegally selling hazardous substances that have been banned under REACH since 2015, and five companies that were illegally using banned substances. The agency was unable to provide additional information on the countries where the companies operate and whether the same companies were involved in both offenses.

The companies were illegally trading in, or using, dibutyl phthalate, diarsenic trioxide, and hexabromocyclododecane, according to the report. The substances are listed in Annex XIV of REACH (Regulation No. 1907/2006 on the registration, evaluation, and authorization of chemicals), meaning they cannot be sold or used in the EU without specific continued-use authorizations. To obtain authorizations, companies must apply to the chemicals agency.

Dibutyl phthalate is a plasticizer that’s often added to adhesives and printing inks; diarsenic trioxide is a hazardous substance used at industrial sites and in manufacturing; and hexabromocyclododecane can be found in flooring, furniture, toys, and construction materials.

’Serious’ Offenses

Of the 802 companies inspected, 735 were not selling Annex XIV substances while 67 were, the agency said. Of the 67 that were, 16 had been granted authorizations, 16 had authorizations pending, and 30 were selling the substances for uses that are exempt from the authorization requirement.

In terms of use of the substances, 746 of the 802 companies inspected were not using Annex XIV substances, 38 were using them on the basis of an authorization or a pending authorization, and 13 were using them in situations that did not require an authorization, the chemicals agency’s report said.

“Infringement of authorization provisions is considered a serious offence,” the chemicals agency said in a statement.

According to the report, enforcement authorities issued written or verbal warnings in most of the cases of noncompliance, but in two cases criminal proceedings were started. Under REACH, authorities in EU countries are responsible for enforcement and there is no standard enforcement regime.

National enforcement authorities “take appropriate measures they deem necessary to enforce breaches of the legislation and it is their judgement as to what measures are effective in enforcing compliance” ECHA told Bloomberg BNA in a June 22 email. The agency was unable to provide further details on the enforcement measures.

Theresa Kjell, a senior policy adviser with ChemSec, which campaigns for phasing out toxic chemicals, told Bloomberg BNA June 22 that the substances in Annex XIV of REACH were “the worst of the worst,” and enforcement of the REACH provisions in connection with authorization should be improved.

By highlighting that some illegal use of substances is happening, ECHA’s report “can be one piece in the puzzle of improving the authorization process in general,” Kjell said.

To contact the reporter on this story: Stephen Gardner in Brussels at

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Greg Henderson at

For More Information

The REACH enforcement report is available at

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