Restrictions limit or ban the manufacture, placing on the market or use of certain substances that pose an unacceptable risk to human health and the environment. (They are different from SVHCs in that the EU is not usually trying to phase out their use completely, although some total bans do exist).
Restrictions on chemicals, that is the prevention of certain uses, or even certain chemicals being placed on the market, have been around for a long time. They were originally brought into the EEC (as was) in 1976, via the directive 76/769/EEC Restrictions on Marketing and Use Directive, and implemented into national legislation.
In the UK, restrictions were handled in the Dangerous Substances and Preparations (Safety) (Consolidation) Regulations 1994, as amended, and also the CHIP regulation (up to CHIP 3).
The types of restrictions include:
- preventing lead and other toxins from being used in toys which may be chewed by small children
- preventing certain chemicals from being used in textiles for clothing
- stopping organotin compounds being used in anti-foulant paints for the water environment
- preventing nonylphenol ethoxylates being used in surfactants
- requiring products containing certain isocyanates to be sold in a pack with gloves and appropriate labelling
Restrictions have now been brought under REACH, replacing the original Directive, which means that instead of restrictions being handled in national legislation, they are handled directly in EU legislation. (The legal text of the Directive is now found in REACH Title VIII, Chapter 2, Articles 68 – 72, and the list of restricted chemicals which was in Annex I of the directive has been published in Annex XVII of REACH.).
A restriction applies to any substance on its own, in a mixture or in an article, including those that do not require REACH registration. Unlike Authorisation, which applies to a group of chemicals with specific hazard classifications or other properties (PBT or vPvB), restriction can apply to any chemical substance, whether classified for CLP or not.
Restriction runs in parallel to Authorisation, and has a similar identification process, with various steps where comments from industry can be received. Unlike Authorisation, where industry has to pay for producing technical dossiers for the Authorisation process, restriction is paid for by the Competent Authorities in member states. (Only a cynic would suggest that this may explain why Authorisation is being publicised by ECHA more than Restriction!).
There are currently 64 substances or groups of substances which are restricted from sale or use in the EU (according to the ECHA website, May 2017). However, some groups contain multiple substances, meaning that over 500 individual substances are covered.
Restricted chemicals are listed on the ECHA database, including as an Excel download, with links to the individual conditions of restriction; and they are also listed in Annex XVII of REACH, together with the full conditions of restriction. Note that the version in REACH may be less up to date than the list on the ECHA database as consolidated versions of REACH are only issued occasionally.
To help you understand restriction better, we have produced a summary of the restricted groups, download here: Summary of Restricted chemicals v1.1 22-01-2018 .
This document should not be relied on for full details of the restrictions, and we recommend you check the list online at ECHA, which is available to download from https://echa.europa.eu/substances-restricted-under-reach , or the most recent version in Excel format: restriction-list-updated-22-01-2018.
Proposed restrictions on chemicals are also listed on the ECHA database at https://echa.europa.eu/registry-of-submitted-restriction-proposal-intentions .