PRESS RELEASE: New chemicals on the SIN List challenge the global supply chain
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PRESS RELEASE: New chemicals on the SIN List challenge the global supply chain

Today, chemical specialist organisation ChemSec reveals the latest additions of industrial chemicals on its so-called SIN List – a compilation of over 900 toxic chemicals that should be avoided in the global supply chain. Followed by many brands, chemical producers and manufacturers – as well as the Dow Jones Sustainability Index, UNEP and other influential bodies – the latest additions to the SIN List are expected to set a new standard for sustainable chemicals management.

Among the newly added substances are a group of highly debated chemicals called perfluorinated chemicals, or PFAS for short, which are used in a wide variety of products such as cooking pans, food packaging, dental floss and water-resistant clothes. Currently there are several thousand different PFAS in use all over the world.

Many of them belong to a newly recognized category of chemicals identified as persistent, mobile and toxic chemicals (PMTs). Due to their specific properties and their heavy industrial use, these substances are now widespread in ground- and drinking waters all over the globe. PMT chemicals is one of two chemical groups that is specifically pinpointed with this SIN List update.

“Among the newly added substances are a group of highly debated chemicals called perfluorinated chemicals”

“These chemicals have managed to escape regulation as they do not exactly match current legal criteria. The most well-known chemicals in this category are the fluorinated compounds, often called “forever chemicals” since they do not break down in nature. Even though debate on exactly how to regulate these substances is still ongoing, smart manufacturers should already now begin to phase them out”, says Dr. Anna Lennquist, Project Manager for the SIN List at ChemSec.

The second addition of chemicals to the SIN List belong to another much-talked-about group; nanomaterials. Engineered nanoforms are legally covered by the EU’s chemicals legislation REACH, but so far, the focus has been on establishing definitions for registration requirements. Meanwhile, brands and manufacturers have been uncertain how to approach hazard management of nanomaterials.

“The SIN List now includes carbon nanotubes, one of the more well-studied nanomaterials”

The SIN List now includes carbon nanotubes, one of the more well-studied nanomaterials. First engineered in the 1990s, they are used to make durable, lightweight materials, for electrical conductivity, as a super black pigment and for water purification, among other uses.

“Several studies have shown that carbon nanotubes cause lung cancer. The small tubes induce inflammation in a somewhat similar way to asbestos. Reprotoxic properties have also been observed. Up until now, the debate about the safety of nano has focused on the fact that more research is needed. However, here is a perfect example of where there is enough science to say that these materials should not be used”, says Dr. Lennquist.

Q&A – SIN List update

What will be the implications for the global supply chain”?

We know that many influential brands and standards use the SIN List and incorporate its compounds in their chemicals management strategies. They will start to investigate if these new chemicals are present in their processes and products and look into how to substitute them. That will influence many more companies in their respective supply chains.

  • Anne-Sofie Bäckar, Executive Director at ChemSec

 

Why have you decided to add these new chemicals now? Is it because of new findings?

There are several reasons for the need of an update. As it has been five years since the last major update, of course, much has happened in science and also in policy. However, legislation is still lagging behind. REACH, for example, still doesn’t include all Substances of Very High Concern which is why we continue to build on the SIN List and advocate substitution of these chemicals.

  • Anne-Sofie Bäckar, Executive Director at ChemSec

 

How long have you been working on this update?

We decided to start investigating a possible update about two years ago. The first year was all about reading up and discussing with different people in order to identify the most important focus for an update. The last year has been about doing the scientific background work as well as investigating users’ needs to improve the database and website.

  • Anne-Sofie Bäckar, Executive Director at ChemSec

 

How is PMT different from PBT?

The difference is where in the environment the chemical ends up. If the substance accumulates in organisms it is Bioaccumulative (B), while if it is watersoluble it is called Mobile (M) as it can be transported long distances through water.

  • Anna Lennquist, Senior Toxicologist at ChemSec

 

How come PMT substances are unregulated at the moment?

Current criteria require the combination of persistency and bioaccumulation. It has been problematic to measure and detect the mobile compounds, therefore they have also managed to evade regulation.

  • Frida Hök, Senior Policy Advisor at ChemSec

 

Why have you only decided to include carbon nanotubes? What about other nanomaterials?

For anything we put on the SIN List, we need to be able to defend our decision to call this a Substance of Very High Concern. This means that we both need to be scientifically certain about the hazardous properties and also that the hazardous properties need to correspond to the REACH SVHC criteria and be relevant for regulation. Another reason for only including carbon nanotubes is that we, today, unfortunately do not have enough data on hazardous properties for many nanomaterials.

  • Anna Lennquist, Senior Toxicologist at ChemSec

 

Have you added other chemicals as well?

Yes, we have updated the SIN List with further PBT chemicals. In addition, we have added substances recently classified as CMRs (Carcinogenic, Mutagenic and Toxic to Reproduction) by ECHA committees, as these chemicals by default fulfil REACH criteria.

  • Anna Lennquist, Senior Toxicologist at ChemSec

 

Are you looking into adding further substances on the SIN List?

We are always monitoring the political and scientific developments to keep the SIN List relevant for our users.

  • Anne-Sofie Bäckar, Executive Director at ChemSec

 

What kind of reactions do you expect these new additions to cause?

I believe companies and others will find it helpful to have a shortlist of PMTs to have a bit more guidance regarding nanomaterials. Manufacturers of these chemicals may, of course, be worried that this will affect their sales and will argue against, for example, the need for PMT criteria. However, the same companies will, most likely, have initiated production of alternatives and by quickly marketing those there may even be market shares to gain.

  • Anne-Sofie Bäckar, Executive Director at ChemSec