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Chemical testing: answering retailers’ questions

SATRA regularly advises on chemical and restricted substances requirements, which has become a major topic for retailers. This article answers some frequent questions on this topic.

by Martin Heels

Q How do I ensure my brand meets with restricted substances legislation?

A By following a documented restricted substances policy. When considering legal requirements, demonstrating appropriate due diligence through documentation and traceability are paramount. It is essential to conduct operations in accordance with a well-written restricted substances policy which explains the steps your suppliers should take to provide the necessary assurances that all legal requirements have been met. By listing all relevant restricted substances and stating which might be present in different materials (such as leather, textiles, polymers or metal trims), this document will become much less onerous than you might initially have imagined. Including information about each substance will also inform your suppliers in order to highlight any potential chemicals of concern, so these can be eliminated from the manufacturing process as much as possible.

A comprehensive policy will also include a list of approved laboratories and reference specific testing methods, and procedures to assess whether these chemicals are present. In conjunction with any suppliers’ testing required by a restricted substances policy, testing on final products is also advised. This can be used to show ongoing compliance with the restricted substances list and confirm the validity of any raw material suppliers’ test reports, which may refer to different supply batches. This final product testing – coupled with suppliers’ data – will demonstrate increased retailer diligence. If results indicate anomalies when compared with these supplier reports, the actions and ramifications in any subsequent investigation can be explained in this policy. It is essential that any policy is regularly reviewed to ensure that it contains the latest requirements.

Q How can SATRA help to develop, implement and manage our restricted substances policy?

A Through one-to-one consultations, seminars and laboratory testing. As briefly mentioned above, a thorough and comprehensive restricted substances list (RSL) is the core part of a restricted substance policy. SATRA has experience with the creation and development of RSLs – from drafting an initial document to reviewing and updating existing established manuals. This is carried out on a customer-specific basis to ensure that the RSL is appropriate to your product lines. We also hold seminars on this topic around the world, where this information can be presented directly to suppliers. Bespoke training courses and seminars can be arranged to focus training on specific customer product lines. SATRA can also offer a comprehensive range of testing, on both raw materials and on final products, as part of due diligence testing.

Q Do I have to test everything?

A No – the RSL will highlight the substances that might be present depending on the material. This will demonstrate that testing every material for every substance is not necessary. Obtaining declarations and test reports from suppliers will reduce the amount of necessary testing further down the supply chain. By creating an up-to-date database of current raw material suppliers’ test reports, adequate control of the supply chain can be demonstrated. Over time, and once a catalogue of suppliers’ historical data and test reports are available, the amount of testing required can be reduced if the routes of supply remain unchanged. This may be very difficult to achieve in practice, however, as consistency of supply can be difficult. Therefore, any required testing can be targeted to maximise the effectiveness of your testing budget.

Q Does legislation differ when selling children’s products?

A Yes – as children are generally more vulnerable to hazardous chemicals, there are additional legislative requirements when placing children’s products on the market. Most of these requirements arise from the American Toy Safety Standards and the European Toy Safety Directive, which is applicable for products with play value targeted at children aged 14 years or below. To show sufficient diligence in assessing whether your product is safe to place on the market, testing to the Toy Safety Directive is recommended for novelty slippers and footwear for children under three. This assessment involves determining the amount of heavy metals present, whether small parts (potential choking hazards or sharp edges) are present, and the rate of flame spread if the article catches fire. In 2008, the American Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act (CPSIA) introduced additional requirements for the amount of lead and phthalates in children’s products. Although the phthalates requirements do not apply for footwear, the lead requirements must be satisfied. Within Europe, there are restrictions on the amount of six phthalates in toys and childcare articles.


There are additional legislative requirements when placing children’s products on the market

Q What do I need to do to comply with REACH?

A You need to satisfy the Substances of Very High Concern (SVHC) obligations and the mandatory Annex XVII requirements. Firstly, REACH is only applicable if you are manufacturing or importing into the European Union; there are different obligations depending on your position within the supply chain. Although one of the primary drivers for REACH was to control the use of chemicals, there are also implications for preparations (mixtures of chemicals), downstream users (where chemicals are used in manufacture) and articles (finished consumer goods). The area most applicable to retailers is their obligation for articles (with two main areas being relevant).

Annex XVII is mandatory and consolidates all existing European directives into one piece of legislation. The requirements did not change and no new chemicals were added. However, the SVHC list introduced new legal obligations to respond to customer requests for information on whether a product contains these substances. These are not restricted chemicals, but additional requirements regarding notification to the European Chemicals Agency (ECHA) if more than one tonne per annum of any SVHC is imported. For more detailed information on the REACH legislation, please see the article ‘Ten years of REACH’, published in the December 2016 issue of SATRA Bulletin. As discussed earlier with a restricted substances policy, this does not necessarily result in additional laboratory testing if there is sufficient information available from the supply chain.

Q Does restricted substances legislation differ when selling into different global markets?

A Yes – there are no worldwide limits for restricted substances. Traditionally, the most stringent requirements have been found in the European Union and Japan. With the introduction of the CPSIA and the Californian Proposition 65, American legislation is, however, becoming more stringent. Generally, Australasian requirements mirror those in Europe and central Asia has less severe requirements, although there has been draft legislation on a Chinese version of REACH. This is less concerned with requirements for articles, focusing more on chemical producers. For a restricted substances policy, the best due diligence procedure is to use requirements that are at least as stringent as your most severe market. By default, this ensures compliance with legislation with less severe requirements in other parts of the world.

Q If we have a problem with certain chemicals being present in materials or products, how can SATRA help?

A Although it does depend on the specific chemicals detected, there is often a wide variety of alternative chemicals that can take the place of any restricted substance. For example, there are literally thousands of dyes in the azo dye family, even though only 22 of these have been restricted. Therefore, if a restricted dye is present, a non-restricted alternative should be available. In addition, there are only six restricted phthalate plasticisers, so an alternative can be sought in the same family of chemicals. Other alternative substances from different chemical families are available. However, It is essential to understand that a different chemical will affect the final product’s characteristics. With PVC soles, changing from a restricted phthalate to an alternative may affect the flexibility, flex crack resistance and slip resistance of the final product. Understanding the effect on properties and performance is essential when considering the impact of any changes in raw materials.

Q What are the advantages of receiving a SATRA test report?

A SATRA test reports are accepted worldwide with the confidence and trust that comes with almost 100 years’ experience as the leading independent laboratory in the footwear industry. SATRA is accredited by the United Kingdom Accreditation Service (UKAS) to ISO 17025 and has one of the most extensive UKAS schedules of any UK-based testing laboratory. SATRA guidelines and comments can be included in testing reports to give the additional information and guidance not always available from other testing laboratories. SATRA can offer the complete suite of testing, including physical and chemical to ensure that all potential concerns have been addressed.

How can we help?

Please email for details of SATRA’s chemical analysis services for retailers.

Publishing Data

This article was originally published on page 12 of the January 2018 issue of SATRA Bulletin.

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