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Legislation Restricting the Use of Chemicals

Restrictions of chemicals, based on their hazardous properties or their use.

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Restrictions on Chemicals

The use of certain chemicals is restricted for different reasons. Some chemicals, the ones raising a very high concern, are subject to a high level of regulation, an authorisation regime for all their uses, because they pose certain health or environmental hazards, such as endocrine disruption.

Some chemicals can be restricted because of their risks or use, for example if they could be used to make explosives or illicit drugs.

Restrictions Due to Health or Environmental Hazards

REACH (Registration, Evaluation, Authorisation and Restriction of Chemicals) is concerned with the identification and regulation of hazardous chemicals. Substances that have serious effects on human health and the environment can be identified as substances of very high concern (SVHC).

In order to control the risks related to SVHC within the EU, certain SVHC require authorisation from the European Commission. The aim is to ensure that SVHC are identified and progressively replaced by less dangerous substances or technologies whenever possible.

Substances of Very High Concern (SVHC)
Authorisation list
  • lists SVHC that require authorisation
  • unless an authorisation from the European Commission is in place, it cannot be supplied for use nor used
  • published on the ECHA website and is Annex XIV of REACH
  • the rules apply throughout the EU
  • new substances are added to the Authorisation list regularly
Candidate list
  • lists SVHC that are candidates for authorisation
  • published on the ECHA website in accordance with Article 59(10) of REACH
  • indicates which chemicals users should consider replacing with less hazardous alternatives

Substitution is mandatory for all substances that require authorisation, and highly recommended for substances on the Candidate List. If substitution is not possible, continued use can be permitted by the European Commission if it is thoroughly justified.

Other Restrictions

Specific uses of a chemical may be restricted, where the use presents an unacceptable risk to human health or the environment. In some cases, also the manufacture and supply of a chemical substance may be covered by such a restriction. Many chemicals are restricted in such a manner. You can find these in Annex XVII to the REACH Regulation.

Other European pieces of legislation further regulate the uses of hazardous chemicals, such as a ban on the use of hazardous substances under the European toy safety directive.

Potential Precursor Materials for Explosives or Illicit Drugs

Some chemicals are restricted for sale because they can be used as starting materials for making explosives or illicit drugs.

If you want to obtain any of these precursor chemicals for explosives (up to a certain concentration), the supplier must verify, for each transaction, your proof of identity and licence (in compliance with the licensing regime put in place by the Member State where the restricted explosives precursor is made available). In addition, as a professional user, you must also submit the name and address of your school as well as the intended use of the chemical(s) in question.

If you want to obtain one of the substances listed as a drug precursor, you are required to provide a customer declaration to the provider of the substance in question. This declaration must contain the following information: your name and address and use or uses of the substance.

Protection against Unauthorised Access

The school is required to have a system to control the use of chemicals that might be theft-prone. In schools, this mainly applies to non-denatured ethanol and chemicals that can be used as precursor materials for synthesizing explosives or illicit manufacture of drugs. As for these precursor materials, the school must have a sufficient overview of the stock so that theft or significant and unexplained wastage can be detected quickly. Some examples of chemicals that are common in schools, and also listed as precursor materials in EU legislation, are sulfuric acid, potassium nitrate, and potassium permanganate. Complete lists of the substances in question can be found in the legal documents listed below.


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Online Resources for Chemical Safety in Science Education. (2023, March 17).
Legislation Restricting the Use of Chemicals.