On June 30, 2022, UK Reach published its work programme for 2022/23. . This includes topics that will be of interest to ESTC members operating in the UK market as follows.
Priorities for the 2022-2023 UK Reach Work Programme
1. Per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS)
Description of proposal
A proposal to investigate the risks of per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) and consider how best to manage any identified risks.
The Environment Agency, with HSE, is conducting an RMOA which will make recommendations on how to manage the identified risks of using PFAS. The appropriate authorities intend to act on the recommendations in the RMOA, when published, which may indicate that a restriction is the most appropriate option to control any identified risks.
Various hazards depending on the sub-group of PFAS: persistent, bioaccumulative, toxic (PBT).
PFAS are a large group of synthetic chemicals, consisting of several thousand individual substances. These substances are used in a wide range of product types, such as stain repellents, lubricants, packaging, electronics, and in fire-fighting foams, because they have several desirable technical properties (such as oil resistance, water resistance and low chemical reactivity).
However, their persistence in the environment means any adverse impacts may be difficult to mitigate. Long-term, some PFAS accumulate in living tissue (bioaccumulate) and can significantly affect human health and wildlife by causing cancer, interfering with hormonal systems (endocrine disruption) and some PFAS are toxic to reproduction. Many of those that are not bioaccumulative are still likely to accumulate in surface and ground waters, including drinking water supplies, where removal is difficult. In March 2022 the European Chemicals Agency (ECHA) submitted a proposal under EU REACH to restrict PFAS in firefighting foams. Several EU member states also intend to submit a broader proposal in January 2023 to restrict the manufacture, placing on the market and use of PFAS. Between December 2021 and January 2022, HSE conducted a call for evidence as part of the ongoing RMOA on PFAS under UK REACH. This provided an opportunity for interested parties to provide technical and socio-economic information on PFAS and inform development of the RMOA. Other areas of developing policy will also contribute to the RMOA, such as the work on persistent, mobile and toxic (PMT) substances.
The recommendations from the RMOA will be published on the HSE website in summer 2022, which may indicate that a restriction is an appropriate measure to control the identified risks. The appropriate authorities, with HSE, will consider the recommendations as soon as possible after publication.
2 Intentionally added microplastics
Description of proposal
A proposal to investigate the risks of intentionally added microplastics.
An evidence project to review emissions of intentionally added microplastics and the risks they pose (both to human health and the environment), including a socio-economic assessment.
While there is some uncertainty regarding the hazards involved, intentionally added microplastics are likely to be persistent in the environment and cause physical obstruction. They may also contain chemical hazards from additives in the plastics and absorb pollutants in the environment.
Intentionally added microplastics are often added to products, such as paints, infill material on sports pitches, and detergents, to serve a specific purpose. However, the risks that microplastics pose are not well characterised. Existing concerns relate mainly to environmental risks, but more recent studies suggest there are also risks to human health.
Some uses of intentionally added microplastics are already regulated within the UK. During 2018 and 2019 the four UK administrations separately introduced bans on microbeads in certain wash-off personal care products and cosmetics (which sometimes contain microbeads as exfoliants).
In January 2019 a proposal was submitted under EU REACH to ban the placing on the market of microplastics as a substance, on its own or in a mixture in a concentration equal to or greater than 0.01% weight for weight (w/w). Both the Committee for Risk Assessment (RAC) and Committee for Socio-economic Analysis (SEAC) under EU REACH agreed that introducing a restriction was the most appropriate measure to address the risks.
The Environment Agency submitted comments on behalf of several government bodies in response to the consultation on the 2019 EU proposal for restricting microplastics supporting the application of the precautionary principle (considering risk reduction measures when the risk is uncertain). They also stated that any measures adopted on this basis must be proportionate, based on cost-benefit analysis, and subject to review when new information becomes available. Defra will commission an evidence project to assess the scale of the risks and identify the most effective measures to address them in the short to medium term. It will also help identify wider evidence gaps that need to be addressed in the longer term to support a more strategic approach to managing intentionally added microplastics.
Substances not considered a priority in 2022 to 2023
3 Restriction of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) in rubber crumb used for synthetic sports pitches
Description of proposal
A proposal to restrict the placing on the market of rubber granules and mulches as infill material on synthetic turf sports pitches or in loose form on playgrounds.
Rubber crumb, used in sports pitches, is often produced from end-of-life tyres. There was a concern in the EU that this could lead to rubber crumb containing high levels of PAHs, leading to a risk for users of synthetic turf pitches and some playgrounds.
Entry 50 of Annex XVII under UK REACH already restricts the use of extender oils in the production of rubber tyres if they contain more than 1 milligram per kilogram (mg/kg) of some PAHs (and 10mg/kg in total). Substances classed as category 1A or 1B carcinogens (known or presumed carcinogenic in humans) and listed under appendix 1 or 2 (including PAHs) are also restricted under entry 28 of Annex XVII.
In 2022, an amendment to entry 50 of the Annex XVII of EU REACH came into force limiting PAHs to 20mg/kg in granules or mulches used as infill material in synthetic turf pitches or in loose form on playgrounds or in sport applications. The amendment applies from 10 August 2022.
A study conducted by Sport England and submitted to the public consultation on the ECHA restriction found that 95% of the material in use within the UK falls within the limit set in the 2022 amended entry 50 of Annex XVII under EU REACH. A study conducted for the ECHA restriction dossier similarly found that most pitches across the EU (and including the UK) are already compliant with the restriction.
In 2020 the Sports Pitch Construction Association (SAPCA) introduced a code of practice setting a concentration limit of 20mg/kg in rubber infill material manufactured by its members. The aim is to reduce the use of infill material that is non-compliant with the concentration limits set by the EU restriction. SAPCA continues to work closely with the UK government on this issue.
The effectiveness of existing restrictions on PAHs and the precautionary measures taken by the sports sector means this is not a priority for action this year. However, the appropriate authorities will continue to consider whether a restriction under UK REACH may be required when setting priorities in future work programmes, should evidence suggest the voluntary code is not being adhered to.
The full work programme can be viewed here : (Rationale for prioritising substances in the UK REACH work programme, 2022 to 2023 – GOV.UK (www.gov.uk)