Data confirms an urgent need to step up enforcement of chemicals legislation for imported goods and online sales


Brussels 29 September 2022 – According to Cefic’s latest analysis of data from the EU’s Safety Gate on non-compliance with EU chemicals legislation, over just two years there has been a four-fold increase of of cases where the country of origin of the product containing REACH-non-compliant chemicals is unknown. This is likely due to ongoing increased online shopping during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Not knowing the origins of these products containing non-compliant chemicals reduces the EU’s ability to monitor online markets and improve the safety of products.

Sylvie Lemoine, Cefic Executive Director Product Stewardship, commented:

“Regulation only makes sense if it is accompanied by enforcement. It is striking that with increasing online sales, an increase of products from unknown origin entering the bloc is observed. We continue to call for stronger surveillance and increased enforcement efforts, particularly on imported goods and goods from unknown origin, most likely related to online sales. As online shopping grows, it is a matter of consumer safety.

Here are some of the key findings of Cefic’s analysis:

  • The percentage of cases where the country of origin of the product containing REACH-non-compliant chemicals is unknown has increased four-fold in two years; from 4% in 2019 to 18% in 2021.
  • The most common chemicals causing non-compliance of products to REACH, roughly 25 %, were restricted phthalates, followed by heavy metals (cadmium, lead), which are also reprotoxic. The most common restricted phthalate was bis(2-ethylhexyl) phthalate or DEHP for short, a substance that has been restricted in Europe for years, but still frequently shows up in plastic dolls imported from China.

These conclusions come not only from the Safety Gate analysis but are corroborated by studies from Nordic Member States. Cefic sees ECHA’s EU-wide REF-8 pilot project on enforcement of online sales as a step in the right direction, but further action is needed to make it effective.

Cefic calls for actions to be prioritised to better enforce EU chemicals legislation. This is particularly important as restrictions increasingly address groups of chemicals in different uses (e.g., microplastics) and will become even more generic in the upcoming revision of REACH.

Those actions, echoed by recommendations issued by the Chemicals Strategy for Sustainability High-Level Round Table, should include, among others, tightened controls of imports (online marketplaces), ensuring new restrictions are enforceable by developing standard control methods and lab capacity, sufficient resources and funding for enforcement, and improving coordination and sharing data to further support enforcement actions.