Chemicals: REACH rules and restrictions

If you deal with restricted chemicals there’s a range of rules and restrictions you need to follow.

This guidance was withdrawn on

Information on REACH can now be found on the HSE website.

Some chemicals are particularly harmful to people’s health and the environment. These are restricted under the ‘Registration, evaluation, authorisation and restriction of chemicals (REACH) regulation’.

A chemical restriction may:

  • control the supply of a chemical and/or how it can be used
  • apply to all, or just particular uses
  • impose concentration limits, or ban an activity entirely
  • apply to pure substances, or limit concentrations allowed in mixtures

Full list of chemical substances restricted by Annex XVII to REACH Regulation.

Restricted chemicals offences

If a substance or mixture contains a chemical that is listed in Annex XVII of REACH which is either banned entirely, or the permissible concentration limit is breached, it’s a criminal offence to:

  • supply or use it, either at all or for a restricted purpose
  • cause someone else not to comply with a restriction

If you commit one of these offences you could face enforcement action, including prosecution.

Restricted chemicals

The Environment Agency runs campaigns on high priority chemicals that are a concern for UK businesses. Information and guidance from some of our campaigns is available below for:

  • mercury and its compounds
  • nonylphenol and its ethoxylates
  • polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs)

Mercury and its compounds

The marketing and use of mercury and mercury compounds is restricted.

The restrictions apply to:

  • measuring devices containing mercury such as thermometers and barometers
  • electrical switches
  • batteries
  • fluorescent tubes
  • pesticides
  • pigments and dyes
  • wood/leather preservatives

You must not supply any measuring device containing restricted mercury.

To find out if a measuring device contains mercury:

  • check the packaging label and product information
  • ask your supplier

If a device is covered by the restriction then it can’t be placed on the market for supply to the general public. Further restrictions for professional and industrial purposes will come into force in April 2014.

Exemptions apply to devices that were already in use in the EU before April 2009, or which were more than 50 years old in October 2007.

Guidance on marketing and use of mercury and its compounds is in ‘Mercury in measuring devices’.

Nonylphenol and its ethoxylates

The supply and use of nonylphenol and its ethoxylates as substances or mixtures are restricted in:

  • industrial and domestic cleaning
  • processing textiles and leather
  • emulsifiers in agricultural teat dips
  • metal working
  • pulp and paper manufacturing
  • cosmetic and personal care products
  • pesticides and biocides

If your company supplies or uses substances for these products or activities, you must make sure you comply with the restrictions.

To find out what chemicals a substance or mixture contains you should:

  • check the label on the packaging
  • refer to the safety sheet from your supplier
  • speak to your supplier
  • send a sample to a laboratory for analysis

Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbons (PAHs)

The level of PAHs in new tyres, re-treads and the extender oils used to make them is restricted.

Tyres and retreads manufactured before 1 January 2010 are not affected by this restriction.

Only eight PAHs are covered by the REACH restriction. These are:

  • Benzo[a]pyrene (BaP)
  • Benzo[e]pyrene (BeP)
  • Benzo[a]anthracene (BaA)
  • Chrysen (CHR)
  • Benzo[b]fluoroanthene (BbFA)
  • Benzo[j]fluoroanthene (BjFA)
  • Benzo[k]fluoroanthene (BkFA)
  • Dibenzo[a,h]anthracene (DBAhA)

Extender oils can’t be supplied or used to produce tyres if they contain more than:

  • 1mg/kg of BaP
  • 10mg/kg of the total of all restricted PAHs

Read ‘PAH restrictions and how to comply with them part 1’ for lists of affected PAHs and restricted product types.

Information to check if your business is complaint with the PAHs restrictions ‘PAH restrictions and how to comply with them part 2’.

The PAHs REACH restriction changed in December 2013. Any rubber or plastic items can no longer be supplied to the general public that:

  • come into regular direct contact with the human skin or mouth
  • and contain more than 1 mg/kg of the PAHs listed above

The same restriction applies to toys and childcare items, but the PAHs limit is 0.5 mg/kg.

Further information

Email the Environment Agency’s Chemical compliance team at

Environment Agency’s National Customer Contact Centre 03708 506 506

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Published 13 March 2014