Back to school 2022: be aware of products containing Substances of Very High Concern

The beginning of a new school and business year often means new purchases: school supplies, clothing, sports equipment, new home and office supplies, etc. But some of these items may contain Substances of Very High Concern (SVHC) that not everyone is aware of. Current regulations entitle you to access this information, and Ineris has prepared a summary of these rights.

Items that we use on a daily basis may contain substances of very high concern (SVHC). Consumers can exercise a “right to know” about the potential presence of SVHCs in their purchases, and thus adapt or use these items knowingly. This right to know is stipulated in Article 33 of the REACH Regulation.

The use of Substances of Very High Concern

SVHCs are found in everyday items, as certain substances are necessary for an item's design or proper functioning.
These substances are used because they confer particular properties to the items, such as resistance to intense heat, acids, water, or grease. These properties account for the presence of these substances in many consumer and industrial products. For instance, plasticisers like phthalates, found in plastic toys and school supplies, improve the flexibility of these items and make them more pliant. In textiles, a plasticiser can be applied as a coating to increase the strength of a fabric and protect it from wear and tear and the elements. Other substances can make an item stronger, more resistant, or safer—flame retardants in furniture, for example.
Yet, some substances occasionally have unintended effects on people or the environment. Plastics, for example, can contain phthalates that have been identified as endocrine disruptors. These can have harmful effects on our health depending on how we are exposed to them. 224 substances are designated at the EU level as Substances of Very High Concern (SVHC).
The REACH Regulation stipulates that SVHCs must be monitored and their presence communicated, thereby prompting their substitution when technically possible and economically viable. By keeping themselves informed, consumers also help prompt manufacturers to consider alternative substances.
Ineris is one of the partners of the LIFE AskReach project that developed the Scan4Chem mobile application. This app lets users scan items to see if they contain Substances of Very High Concern (over 0.1% w/w), and thus to actively exercise their consumer right to know under the REACH Regulation. The app is designed to allow users to be better informed and to provide companies with the tools necessary to comply with their obligations to communicate information on Substances of Very High Concern.