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Statement from the Health and Safety Authority - Health and Safety Authority orders products containing restricted chemicals removed from sale

March 13, 2018, 15:00

Tuesday 13th March - The Health and Safety Authority (HSA) has participated in a European-wide project, coordinated by the European Chemicals Agency (ECHA), to test consumer products for restricted chemicals.

The project, entitled “REF-4”, involved inspectors in 27 European Union countries checking over 5,500 products for the presence of restricted chemical substances. Approximately 18% of products assessed were not in compliance with REACH, the EU chemical safety regulation.

In Ireland, HSA inspectors checked low-budget jewellery as well as glues and adhesives for the presence of restricted chemicals.

Of the 37 jewellery products tested, inspectors found:

  • 8% were non-compliant with the allowed levels for nickel,
  • 13% with the levels for lead, and
  • 5% with the levels for cadmium.

All non-compliant products were removed from the market.

HSA inspectors also assessed 16 glues and adhesives for the presence of the restricted chemical substances benzene, chloroform and toluene. These products were all found to be compliant and did not contain any of the restricted chemicals.

Speaking about the dangers restricted chemicals can pose, Kevin Buckley, senior inspector with the HSA said:

“Exposure to excess nickel can cause dermatitis. Long-term lead exposure can damage the nervous system and be especially hazardous for children. Ingesting lower levels of cadmium, over a long period, can lead to kidney damage and cause bones to become fragile.”

A potential source of exposure could be if a piece of jewellery is swallowed or is repeatedly sucked or mouthed. Exposure can also occur due to frequent hand-to-mouth contact after handling.”

In relation to preventing these products getting onto the market, Kevin Buckley said:

Importers, manufacturers and distributors should be aware of the legal requirements governing the safety of products containing restricted chemicals. Retailers selling the products should check with their suppliers to ensure that their existing stock is compliant and all non-compliant stock should be removed from the shelves. And finally consumers can also check the EU’s RAPEX system on the web, where potentially hazardous consumer products, identified across the EU, are listed weekly.”

Throughout 2018 inspectors from the HSA will continue to assess consumer products as part of their wider market surveillance activities. The Authority will be checking to ensure products containing restricted chemicals are not placed on the Irish market.

Further details on the REF-4 project at an EU-wide level can be found at:

The Rapid Alert System (RAPEX) for non-food dangerous products can be found at:


Notes for editor

Health impacts


Nickel –Exposure via the presence of nickel in jewellery and clothing fasteners is one of the main causes. The skin can develop an eczema like rash upon exposure to nickel containing materials.

Lead - At high levels, the metal can severely damage the brain and kidneys, and cause reproductive problems. Although jewellery is not a leading source of lead exposure, dangerous amounts of the heavy metal can spread through the bloodstream if jewellery is swallowed or mouthed/chewed. Exposure to lead can occur if, after handling jewellery with lead on its surface, hands are placed in the mouth or upon food subsequently consumed.

Cadmium - Children and adults will have similar health effects if exposed to toxic levels of cadmium. Ingesting lower levels of cadmium over a long period can lead to kidney damage, and can cause bones to become fragile.


Benzene - Acute exposure to benzene may cause narcosis: headache, dizziness, drowsiness, confusion, tremors and loss of consciousness. Benzene is a moderate eye irritant and a skin irritant. Benzene is a well-established cause of cancer in humans. Consequently, its presence is restricted from substances (including glues and adhesives) placed on the market.

Chloroform – Inhalation of chloroform affects the central nervous system (brain), liver, and kidneys. Chloroform was used as an anaesthetic during surgery for many years before its harmful effects on the liver and kidneys were recognized. Exposure can cause fatigue, dizziness, and headache and longer term exposure may damage the liver and kidneys. Its presence is restricted from substances (including glues and adhesives) placed on the market.

Toluene – Inhalation of toluene affects the nervous system. Symptoms may include headache, nausea, dizziness, drowsiness and confusion. A severe exposure can cause unconsciousness. It can be absorbed through the skin and can cause dermatitis following skin exposure. Its presence is restricted from adhesives placed on the market for the general public.


The Rapid Alert System (RAPEX) for non-food dangerous products facilitates the rapid exchange of information between national authorities of 31 countries and the European Commission on dangerous products found on the market. The European Commission publishes a weekly overview of the alerts on products reported by the national authorities. They include information on the dangerous products found, the risks identified and the measures taken in the notifying country in order to prevent or restrict their marketing or use.

See here for further information -


REACH stands for the Regulation for Registration, Evaluation, Authorisation and Restriction of Chemicals. The REACH Regulation entered into force on 1st June 2007 to streamline and improve the former legislative framework for chemicals of the European Union (EU). REACH also created the European Chemicals Agency (ECHA) which has a central co-ordination and implementation role in the overall process.

The aims of REACH are to:

  • Provide a high level of protection of human health and the environment from the use of chemicals
  • Allow free movement of substances on the EU market
  • Enhance innovation and the competitiveness of the EU chemicals industry
  • Reduce animal testing by promoting the use of alternative methods of assessing chemicals

The European Chemicals Agency (ECHA)

The European Chemicals Agency (ECHA) is the driving force among regulatory authorities in implementing the EU's chemicals legislation for the benefit of human health and the environment as well as for innovation and competitiveness. ECHA is located in Helsinki, Finland and manages the registration, evaluation, authorisation and restriction processes for chemical substances to ensure consistency across the countries in which REACH applies. ECHA helps companies to comply with the legislation, advances the safe use of chemicals, provides information on chemicals and addresses chemicals of concern.

The REF-4 Project

The REF-4 Project aimed to raise awareness of restrictions amongst stakeholders, gain insight into the extent of non-compliance on the EU/EEA-market, and undertake appropriate enforcement action and to achieve a greater degree of compliance and harmonisation, thereby reducing associated risks to human health and the environment.





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