Further restrictions are to be applied to phthalate plasticizers in products starting on July 7, 2020. From that date onward, the strict limit previously imposed on toys and baby products will be extended to almost all products. Exemptions from the tighter regulations will be granted in only a few exceptional cases, according to the chemical experts at DEKRA. Furthermore, exceeding the limit of 0.1% on DEHP, DBP, BBP, and DIBP plasticizer content, either individually or collectively, will become a criminal offense.
Annex XVII to Entry No. 51 of the REACH Regulation (EU Regulation No. 1907/2006) previously encompassed only toys and baby products. These stringent specifications are due to apply to all products soon. Phthalate plasticizers are especially prevalent in PVC and soft PU plastic, as well as in elastomers such as chloroprene rubber and thermoplastic elastomers (TPE/TPU).
Their phthalate content can easily amount to as much as 30% or 40% of the plastic in a product. Handles, such as those on tools, often contain plasticizers. They are also used for prints on clothing to keep the printing elastic. Phthalate plasticizers are still used in Asia in particular because they are cheaper than the safer alternatives, as the DEKRA experts note.
Owing to their reprotoxic effects, the plasticizers specified are already prohibited by a series of regulations, such as the RoHS Directive and the Toy Safety Directive. The REACH Regulation previously contained only a duty to communicate information in Article 33, as the substances are also on the Candidate List. The extension of the restrictions in Annex XVII to REACH means that the ban now applies to the sale of all products, with a range of specific exemptions for items such as laboratory equipment and medicinal products. The restrictions will not apply to motor vehicles and their spare parts or to aircraft until 2024.
DEKRA is recommending that all companies check whether the products that they sell contain any of these plasticizers. It would definitely be advisable to clarify this with suppliers. Laboratory testing would also be useful in many cases. DEKRA laboratories offer accredited plasticizer analysis services for this purpose in Germany and China. DEKRA also offers database-assisted risk assessments on materials and support with setting up processes for ensuring product conformity.