2020 enforcement data reveals increasing number of hand sanitiser imports violating EU chemical safety laws

News 2020 enforcement data reveals increasing number of hand sanitiser imports violating EU chemical safety laws

Brussels, 9 June 2021 – According to Cefic’s analysis of data reported through the EU’s ‘Safety Gate’, 2020 saw a steep increase in hand sanitiser imports not compliant with the EU chemicals safety rules. These products are either not marked as flammable, contain methanol (not compliant with the EU Classification and Labelling rules), or hold an insufficient percentage of ethanol to kill viruses (not compliant with the EU Biocides Regulation).

Some other key findings of this analysis include:  

  • While close to 80 % of non-compliant articles comes from outside the EU/EEA, we see a steep increase in cases where the country of origin of the product is unknown (17 % in 2020 vs 4 % in 2019). This is likely due to increased online shopping during the COVID-19 pandemic. 
  • As in previous years, children’s toys account for more than a third of all reported cases of non-compliance. Leading cause is DEHP, an endocrine disrupting phthalate that has been restricted in Europe for years, but still frequently shows up in plastic dolls imported from China, followed by too high migration of reprotoxic boron, frequently found in so-called “slime toys”. 
  • New trends for which an increasing number of non-compliance has been reported to include restricted refrigerants in cars (too high global warming potential, not compliant with the type-approval directive) and “skin-lightening products” containing mercury.  

The findings confirm an urgent need for EU member states to step up enforcement of REACH particularly for imported goods, including from online marketplaces. Strengthening enforcement, especially in imports, has been identified as one of the areas of focus in the new Chemicals Strategy for Sustainability.  

Sylvie Lemoine, Cefic Executive Director Product Stewardship said: “Not only do we need more coordinated enforcement at EU borders, but we also need to ensure the restrictions or bans we adopt in Europe are enforceable. This means enforcement authorities need to have the analytical tools, the lab capacity, and the budgets to control a representative sample of goods for the presence and amount of restricted chemicals. Non-compliant imports pose an unacceptable risk to consumers.”  

For a list of all findings as well as the breakdown of cases of non-compliance by product category, chemical, or specific legislation, please see our full report.

Background Information 

This analysis is based on the Commission’s 2020 Safety Gate article data, but broken down into individual chemicals. Through the Safety Gate rapid alert system for dangerous non-food products (before known as RAPEX), EU/EEA member states and the European Commission exchange information about products posing a risk to health and safety of consumers. In 2020, the Cefic report listed 1136 instances of chemicals that were not in compliance with the law (2019: 1468). 

Cefic’s analysis excludes button batteries and motor vehicles. The raw data has also been adjusted for the fact that a product can sometimes be found in other countries or in different colours. 

This analysis does not reflect the number of all non-compliant articles placed on the EU market and is only based on the cases reported by EU Member State enforcement authorities through Safety Gate.