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Pens, glues, crayons, pencil cases, scissors and school bags are all examples of back-to-school products. European retailers and their suppliers may be familiar with their obligations for ‘articles’ under REACH but may not be too familiar with procedures for ‘mixtures’.

In the European Union (EU), Regulation (EC) No. 1907/2006 (REACH) governs substances on their own, in mixtures and in articles. In the context of consumer products, the general obligation to register substances on their own and in mixtures is when their annual production volumes or imported quantities are 1 tonne or more per EU manufacturer or EU importer per year. Other obligations include supplying Safety Data Sheets (SDSs) and to apply for notification under Classification, Labelling and Packaging of chemical substances and mixtures (CLP) if hazardous substances are present. For articles, the general obligations are to observe the restricted substances limits and if applicable, communicate information on substances of very high concern (SVHC) and submit SVHC notification.

Substances, Mixtures and Articles with intended release of substance

Pen inks, glues, correction fluids, crayons and water color paints are back-to-school items classified as ’mixtures’ under REACH. Scented articles such as erasers are classified as articles containing substances intended to be released where the erasers are articles and the scented substances are intended to be released. EU retailers who place these products on the market are obliged to collect from their suppliers, usually from non-EU countries, the annual tonnage of substances to prepare for registration in case the volume is reaching the 1 tonne level.

By 7 March, 2011, Registration numbers have been granted for 20,175 dossiers out of 20,723 submissions by the first registration deadline. This amount of dossiers is equivalent to 3,483 phase-in substances1. Substances used in back-to-school products are usually phase-in substances and the amount per potential registrant generally falls into smaller tonnage bands.

Registration deadlines for phase-in substances

Substance tonnage Deadline
≥ 1000 tonne / year
≥ 100 tonne / year (R50/53)
≥ 1 tonne / year for CMR
Dec 1, 2010
≥ 100 to <1000 tonne / year Jun 1, 2013
≥ 1 to <100 tonne / year Jun 1, 2018

Relevant back-to-school product retailers shall have pre-registered their substances before December 2008. If they have missed the pre-registration deadline they have to submit an inquiry to the European Chemical Agency (ECHA) to see whether a registration has already been submitted for the same substance. If the same substance has already been registered, ECHA will share the contact information with the potential registrant to facilitate data sharing.

Apart from registration, back-to-school products may also be obliged to fulfill the Safety Data Sheet (SDS) requirements under REACH and CLP regulation (EC) No 1272/2008 upon request by distributors or downstream users if the substance or mixtures

  • are classified as dangerous in accordance with CLP; or
  • are classified as persistent, bioaccumulative or toxic (PBT) and very persistent and very bioaccumulative (vPvB) in accordance with REACH Annex XIII; or
  • contain a SVHC from the candidate list.

Table 1 shows some examples of back-to-school products regarding registration and SDS requirements. 

Product Classification Product Example Registration (substance ≥ 1 t / yr) SDS (irrespective of tonnage)
Mixture in a container Inks in pens Required Required
Paint Required Required
Article Ruler Required Not Required

Table 1. Product classification and the necessity of registration and SDS

Articles under REACH regulation

Manufactures and importers of back-to-school products for articles such as rulers, pencil cases and school bags have to observe another set of obligations other than registration and safety data sheet. They are obliged to communicate the name of the SVHC present in a product and information on the safe use of the product along the supply chain in accordance with Article 33 of REACH. This communication is free of charge and must be within 45 days upon request from the consumer. The date of supply is the relevant date for which SVHCs from the candidate list are being referred. Under ANNEX XVII of REACH, certain restrictions apply to back to school articles. Manufacturers or importers have to ensure the content of the dangerous substances are within allowable limits.SGS has a dedicated team to offer REACH services including the preparation of dossiers for registration, safety data sheets (SDSs) and SVHC analysis. 

1 ECHA News Alert

Hing Wo Tsang
Senior Technical Manager
Chemical Laboratory - Hardlines
SGS Hong Kong Ltd.
t: +852 277 474 20

SGS is the world’s leading inspection, verification, testing and certification company. SGS is recognized as the global benchmark for quality and integrity. With 64,000 employees, SGS operates a network of over 1,250 offices and laboratories around the world.