Selby, Denehurst Chemical Safety Ltd,
Denehurst, Station Road
Burley in Wharfedale
West Yorkshire, UK
When delivering training work or at a conference, the best way to get everyone
interested and involved is to discuss articles. It may not always be relevant to the topic being discussed,
but it is guaranteed that the articles vs chemicals debate will provoke a response.
The first thing to consider is the definition of an ‘article’.
It is not helped by the use of the English language that also ascribes the word to a piece of law (eg. Article 7 about
articles). The next step is to consider this document as an article about the article Article and at this
point, we are just being silly. Especially if you print it onto paper, whereupon the sheet of paper is
an article with an article about the article Article printed onto it – bearing in mind that the printer cartridge used
to print it, is not an article when new, but may become one when empty.
Since this document is aimed at clarifying the concepts,
a simple definition is required and we recommend you ignore the last paragraph.
Those familiar with REACH will realise that the legal text is ambiguous or at least vague and this is especially
true with articles. This makes interpretation difficult for lawyers simple advice is to follow the spirit
of the legislation that sets out to improve understanding of potential hazards of chemical and to ultimately improve communication
of risk management measures.
The REACH Implementation Projects (RIPs) have resulted in ‘guidelines’; in other words, we are expected
to work to guidelines and not legal texts. If we act in a way to reduce the potential risk of using hazardous
chemicals and do not act against the legislation, we can assure ourselves that we are doing the right thing.
Defining an ‘article’
An article is defined within
guidance documents (notably RIP 3.8) as an object with physical properties more important to its function than any chemical
properties. At this point, we need to ignore comments from ‘pure’ chemists that the hardness
of a plastic chair, for example, is due to the type of polymer used and the cross linking etc (ie chemical identities important)
but for the person sitting on the chair, other factors are more important. Clearly, having four legs and
being relatively comfortable is the main selling point and not the chemical identity of the polymer.
It is perhaps easier to consider what are chemicals
under the meaning of REACH and stuff with properties that are directly related to the chemical identity is unlikely to be
The easiest way to consider
the difference is by way of example – a few are given below, starting with the easy ones :
Delivery system for ink, where the chemical properties of ink are a priority.
The cap is an article, but when attached to the rest of the pen, it is part of the ink container.
The fabric is a carrier of alcohol and detergent
The physical form is main function
The tissue is a carrier of the emollient or fragrance
- perhaps depends on primary function
chemical inside the column is a primary property
Clothing and fabrics from synthetic
Fabrics and clothing are articles, as are the threads used to make them
Yes and no
If supplied to a cup maker, these are chemical (polymer)
If supplied inside a bean-bag
to sit on, they are part of an article
No, when supplied.
Yes, when in use.
to be melted and used to join electronic components is a chemical, but when joining components on a printed circuit board,
the whole object is an article.
chemistry involved in getting the right ‘compound’ for the tyres, the finished round thing is an article.
Container of lubricant
Physical nature important
Yes / No
Container of windscreen wash detergents, but 'sealed' chemicals, such
as lubricants, hydraulics etc are an essential part of the article
supplied out of a tube, it is a chemical, but the cured mastic around the sink after application is an article.
Components may be foreseeably released, such as abrasion.
One possible example of an article that releases chemicals as a function of its
use, or is the release of chemical (scratch off bit) just ‘foreseeable’ under normal use ?
Some of these examples are used later
to illustrate other points.
A few of these examples were originally considered to be ‘articles that released substances’ but as time has
gone on, there are fewer examples of substances released from articles and instead, these ‘articles’ are increasingly
being considered as ‘substance delivery objects’. Effectively, if the objective is to deliver
a chemical, the chemical needs to be registered for that use under REACH; the container may be an article in its own right,
or if detached from the ‘container (eg pen top, empty pen case, used ink cartridge) will be considered an article at
There are some interesting examples where chemicals can be said to be contained but never released and
do not need registration; two examples are liquid thermometers and spirit levels. If the chemicals are not released,
there may be justification not to register if importing that article (although note that if manufacturing in the EU, the contained
chemicals will need to be registered so that you can use them !).
Use of an object
The guidance on articles suggests that one deciding point will be the intention of the supplier.
This was highlighted the other day when holding up a pen to illustrate the use as a chemical delivery device, only
to find it did not ‘work’ and the ink did not come out as planned. The pen was attractively
presented and bore the name of a local pub – was the primary function to deliver ink, or to advertise? It
failed in the delivery function, so perhaps it is an article with an occasional (incidental) ability to release a chemical.
This would be hard to justify !
It is this sort of fundamental question that can keep legal experts occupied for hours, but it is advised to keep a simple
view on this – a child could just as easily suck the ink out of a pen used as advertising as one that actually is intended
However, the use function is
important in other areas and two examples can be used; the first is the supply of polystyrene beads that could be melted and
re-formed into cup-shaped objects. The cups are clearly articles, but the beads would be chemical (polymer)
as the size of the beads are less important than the fact they are made of a certain type of property. Even
if a manufacturer agues that the beads have to be a precise size and shape to work in his machine, the counter argument is
that you can make a different sized machine.
However, if these polymer beads are stuffed inside a teddy-shaped lump of fabric and a couple of bead eyes and a nose attached,
it is now a stuffed toy. This is an article as the polystyrene beads could be replaced by sawdust, sand,
cat litter or a number of other fillers. The use is critical.
A second example is a lump of iron used for smelting (chemical) or used as a door-stop (article).
The concept gets easier the more you think about it.
Articles intended to release chemicals
Having now determined the difference between article and chemical, the intermediate state is an article that releases
chemicals. In this case, the chemical still needs to be registered for such a use and exposure to users
or the environment needs to be taken into account. However, as time has gone on, fewer examples can be
defined as those that release chemicals and in almost every example (including some given in the draft Technical Guidance
Document), it can be argued that the intended function is based on the chemical – for example, a scented candle delivers
scent (it can be a thin candle, a fat one, long or short). At the time of writing, final guidance is still
not yet available.
If you are a supplier of an article releasing a chemical, the chemical being released needs to be registered.
Obviously, if you are an EU manufacturer, the chemical will be registered before you get it so registration is not
a big issue, as long as the use patterns covered by the registration match your intended use.
Most articles fit into this category and if substances
of very high concern (SVHC)1are foreseeably released during use, it will be necessary to warn users, provide suitable
labelling and a Safety Data Sheet and if that substance is restricted or needs authorisation, Notification is required.
The need to make a formal Notification depends on the ‘concentration’ of the SVHC in the article and whether
more than a tonne is supplied. The concentration limit is 0.1% and if below this level, Notification is not required.
Examples of foreseeable release
include chemicals released from a tyre, dyes from clothes, ink from printed paper, metal dust from grinding, flame retardants
from cushions etc. The latter example is perhaps open to debate, but since many flame retardants are potentially
vPvB (you don’t want them to biodegrade or wash out), this is perhaps one area where ‘socio-economic’ advantage
will be key.
unless your article contains SVHC above the agreed thresholds of concern, there is perhaps little you need worry about –
however, knowing what is in them is the difficult part for downstream users of articles as the suppliers will want to keep
their composition confidential for commercial reasons. To overcome this, there is a 45 day rule in which
a DU or consumer can demand to know if an article contains a SVHC and have an answer in 45 days. It is
expected that some NGOs and lobby groups will ask this question to many suppliers, so we advise that you have your answers
If you can think of a situation
where a chemical is released but you do not expect it to happen, you have foreseen the release – therefore, do not expect
The same point will apply for
un-foreseen as for foreseen – if your article contains an SVHC expect to have to communicate the fact to DUs or NGOs.
It will be virtually impossible to argue against any type of release what so ever, so be prepared to reconsider the
How big is an article
? Is it the door knob on a cabin on board the Queen Mary or is it the whole ship ? Current
indications are that the knob is an article until it is fixed to the door and at this point, the door is an article with wooden
bits, hinges and obviously the knob. If the lock mechanism has some grease in it or corrosion inhibitors
and if the wood is treated with preservatives, there will be chemicals that can be foreseeably released.
When the door is bolted onto the
rest of the ship, the whole ship is an article and if you then try to think of the chemicals taken to build it, you will need
to lie down in a darkened room.
There are two main points to consider in this case; firstly (and perhaps the most important) have any components
been used that contain hazardous substances that can be a risk to users or the environment (noting that risk is a function
of the chance of exposure and the known hazard). If the answer is yes, if the object fit for purpose ?
An example may be that a corrosion inhibitor that is considered a SVHC should not be used on the door hinges, but could
be used on the propeller shaft. This is primarily a duty of care process.
The second point is to consider the concentration
in the article – if the corrosion inhibitor is actually a SVHC and needs to be Authorised, and is 0.2% by weight of
the hinge, the Hinge would need ‘Notification’. However, once stuck to the cabin wall, the
% weight in the whole ship is significantly lower and the ship does not need Notification. However, when
supplying the hinges with an Authorised substance, the risk assessment of that substance, that is central to the Authorisation,
would very likely suggest that using in door hinges is one of the uses advices against !
Use of a corrosion inhibitor on a propeller shaft is technically demanding and
there may be a strong socio-economic case for a specialist (Authorised) substances to be used in an essential application.
REACH actually does make
some sense when seeing the whole picture.
will not be required in many cases, but it is of concern to industry as a threat to their continued supply of articles.
The simple position is that if your article contains > 0.1% SVHC (eg vPvB, PBT or CMR)1
and is subsequently on the Candidate List and needs Authorisation, and this substance is possibly released during use,
you will need to Notify the ECHA. The article will also need to carry warnings and an SDS is necessary.
As we do not yet have
the Candidate List and the whole legal process of Authorisation is still in debate, more advice on the Notification process
will be given later.
If supplying products that
contain chemicals that are going to be intentionally released, you are almost certainly supplying a container of chemicals.
In this case, the chemicals need to be registered for their intended use if supplied at over 1 tonne. The
risk assessment (CSR) will need to reflect this use and the types of exposure.
If an article has a substance in it or on it, and it has a chance of being
released during use (whether a function of its use, such as a tyre or by accident such as a painted door) and the substance
is of very high concern and has been Authorised, the article will need Notification.
Either way, manufacturers, suppliers and users of products will need to define
if an article or chemical container and whether the contents need registration or not or whether the article could release
substances of very high concern during use. Ask you suppliers what chemicals are used in manufacture and
ask your customers or users about possible release patterns.
1 SVHC – Substances of very high concern will include substances considered very persistent
and very bioaccumulative (vPvB), persistent, bioaccumulative and toxic (PBT) and carcinogenic, mutagenic and reproductive
toxins (CMR) and other substances know to have adverse effects (eg endocrine disrupters) or perhaps nano-particles.
Many of these types of substances will be restricted in use and will be on the proposed ‘Candidate List’
of substances that will need Authorisation for further (restricted) supply.