Plastics & Substances of Very High Concerns (SVHCs)

Awareness on the use of plastics today is more than any time in the past. Plastics are essential and everywhere; a part of our daily lives used as packaging materials, containers, toys and many more with a big list.

Some of the Ingredients being the part of plastic items are known as substances of very high concerns (SVHCs) and could be harmful to the public health and our environment. Technical knowledge like green chemistry and toxicology are important besides other sciences.

Plastic has many classes and many uses. Some are commonly recycled and others may not be recyclable. For details on plastics types, general properties, their common household uses, visit, web page at: http://www.ryedale.gov.uk/attachments/article/690/Different_plastic_polymer_types.pdf.

Substances of very high concerns (SVHCs)

Phthalates

Phthalates function as plastic softeners and make something less brittle. They could often migrate because of their inherent properties of mobility, often migrate and may enter into our bodies. Phthalates are endocrine disruptors that are linked to reproductive malformations in babies, reduce fertility, developmental disorders, asthma, and increased allergic reactions.

BPA & BPA Substitutes

The most famous toxic chemical in plastics is Bisphenol-A, or BPA, which is a hormone disruptor linked to a whole host of health problems. Studies show that BPA or its replacement BPS, another chemical in the Bisphenol family, may be toxic as well, showing some of the same hormone-disrupting effects as BPA. In addition to BPA and BPS plastics leech synthetic estrogen mimickers into the food or liquids stored inside them, which are linked to cancer, infertility, heart disease, and other health problems.

PVC

Polyvinyl chloride (PVC, soft plastics), is widely known as the most toxic plastic for health and the environment. In its production, it releases dioxins, phthalates, vinyl chloride, ethylene dichloride, lead, cadmium and other toxic chemicals. It can leach many of these harmful chemicals into the water or food it’s being used to contain, which is how those chemicals get into our bodies. There are options whereby we could reduce the amount of plastic with less toxic chemicals or eliminating them completely having positive impact on environment or health by the reduced body burden. Some of known ideas are:

  • Opt for stainless steel bottles.
  • Look for food products stored in glass rather than plastic and store leftovers at home in glass or ceramic containers as well.
  • Avoid plastic made of PVC.
  • Try not to heat food or liquids in plastic or pouches. High heat allows plastic to leech chemicals faster.
  • Reduce your own plastic waste.
  • Reuse. Bring your own reusable shopping and produce bags to markets, and avoid using single-use plastic bags. …
  • Refuse. Refuse straws: It’s as simple as adding, “No straw, please” when requesting beverages at restaurants or cafes. …
  • Remove, recycle and any substitution with less hazardous ingredients.

Understanding Hazardous Chemicals, materials, and substances

Hazardous and toxic chemicals or substances as a part of ingredients within the plastic materials or composition of different classes of plastic may enter into the body via main routes of entry like lungs through the respiratory mechanism, ingestion as gastrointestinal, though skin absorption. Toxic chemicals may leach out of plastic and found in the blood and tissues of human bodies, animals, and marine animals. This kind of exposure is linked to cancers, birth defects, impaired immunity, endocrine disruption and other diseases or ailments.

Regulations Related to the SVHCs

European Union (EU)

Substances of very high concerns (SVHCs) are hazardous and toxic (or part of a group of chemical substances) for which it has been proposed that the use within the European Union (EU) be subject to authorization under the REACH Regulation. Candidate List of substances of very high concern for Authorization is published in accordance with Article 9(10) of the REACH Regulation, and is available at: web page t: https://echa.europa.eu/candidate-list-table.

This is the most recent updated list issued on January 15, 2019. It includes a total 197 SVHCs.
There is a document as a REACH Certificate of Compliance that certifies a product to be in compliant with the EU REACH regulation (EC) No 1907/2006. It could be a testing report or statement issued by a third-party as a testing organization. It could also be a self-declaration. The criteria are given in article 57 of the REACH Regulation.

A substance may be proposed as an SVHC if it meets one or more of the following criteria: The substances as SVHCs are:

  • Carcinogenic
  • Mutagenic
  • Toxic for reproduction
  • Persistent, bioaccumulative and toxic according to the criteria set out in Annex XIII to the REACH Regulation (PBT substances). There is “scientific evidence of probable serious effects to human health or the environment which give rise to an equivalent level of “concern” such substances are identified on a case-by-case basis.

The “equivalent concern” criterion is significant because it is this classification which allows substances which are, for example, neurotoxin, endocrine-disrupting, or otherwise present an unanticipated environmental health risk to be regulated under REACH.

The U.S. Regulations

The U.S. EPA, State of California’s proposition 65, and the EU’s Registration, Evaluation, Authorization, and Registration of Chemicals (REACH) have listing of chemicals and substances of very high concerns (SVHCs) and their related regulations. In the U.S. the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), California Department of Toxic Substance Control, and the EU’s Chemical Agency (ECHA) are responsible for regulatory implementation and responding to the adopted regulations to protect public health and or the environment and maximize the acceptable use and their acceptable alternatives of least concerns or elimination the hazardous product totally. It is a lengthy process or research of finding suitable alternatives and their implementation in the consumer supply chain worldwide. All these actions have an impact on businesses and in the consumer supply chain.

Simply because a substance meets one or more of the criteria does not necessarily mean that it will be proposed as an SVHC. Many such substances are already subject to restrictions on their use within the European Union, such as those in Annex XVII of the REACH Regulation. SVHCs are substances for which the current restrictions on use (where these exist) might be insufficient. There are three priority groups for assessment.

PBT substances and vPvB substances;

substances which are widely dispersed during use;

Substances which are used in large quantities.

Disposal

Plastic waste is everywhere. Plastics cannot be eliminated completely according to the current research and combined efforts by the agencies involved. On the average, Americans throw away 2.5 million plastic bottles every hour. And that’s just water bottles! It doesn’t include other plastics we use daily, like straws, bags, packaging and coffee cups. So where does all this plastic go? Some of it gets recycled. Quite a bit turns up in landfills. The majority ends up on the loose, making its way into our oceans and lakes.

The following references will help to understand what is going on this subject matter and may answer more by going through these web pages. Thank you.

 

References:

  • Different Types of Plastics and Their classification, web page, at:http://www.ryedale.gov.uk/attachments/article/690/Different_plastic_polymer_types.pdf
  • EU Substance of very high concern, web page at: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Substance_of_very_high_concern
  • Candidate List of substances of very high concern for Authorization( published in accordance with Article 9(10) of the REACH Regulation), web page at: https://echa.europa.eu/candidate-list-table
  • SVHC, Authorization, Restriction Use of Industry Data to Trigger Regulatory Action Under REACH Plastics Industry, web page at: https://www.plasticsindustry.org/sites/default/files/SVHC-Authorization-Restriction.pdf
  • Substance of Very High Concern-Note # 7 web page at: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Substance_of_very_high_concern#cite_note-7
  • Where are bags banned around the world, web page at: https://www.reusethisbag.com/articles/where-are-plastic-bags-banned-around-the-world/.
  • California Department of Toxic Substance Control, web page at: https://dtsc.ca.gov/.
  • PBA-Free Plastic Containers May be Just as Hazardous, web page at: https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/bpa-free-plastic-containers-may-be-just-as-hazardous/
  • PVC, the Poison Plastic Unhealthy for Our Nation’s Children and Schools, web page at: http://www.chej.org/pvcfactsheets/The_Poison_Plastic.html.

 

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