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The EU Toxlist data base


Any product, such as a building material or a toy, can be considered as a mixture of its chemical components. It is of course not entirely fair to make a product identical to its chemical components, since these will usually be bound together in a matrix (the product), but on the other hand these chemical substances do lead to direct workers exposure during production, can leak from the product over its lifetime and may pose an end-of-life (waste) issue. All discussions regarding the presence of certain chemicals in products, and the need for substitution of the harmful ones, are based on considering products as a mixture of chemical substances without worrying too much whether they are bound in a matrix or not.

The data base

The data base behind the search engine contains all peer reviewed chemical substances with their names, synonyms, EC number, CAS number, hazard statements and a flag. Both human and environmental toxicity are covered.

The flags are:

Black: must not be used and should be substituted

Red: use should be limited as much as possible and prevented if possible

Orange: use with care

Green: okay to use until further notice

For the time being the data base does not contain any orange and green flag chemicals, since for those no peer reviewed classifications exist yet. Their review process is currently ongoing. The data base will be updated as soon as their harmonised classifications become available.

Hazard statements and EU classifications

There are many sources for chemical toxicity, both human and environmental. However, not many are balanced and have been thoroughly reviewed. Therefore this data base contains only the official EU classifications. To each classification (such as a certain degree of acute oral toxicity) belongs a hazard statement. The hazard statements are in the data base since they mean something to the reader (such as “fatal if swallowed”). For those interested: click here and you will find a link to their official numbering (each hazard statement has its own official H-number).

The official EU classifications have two sources. The first source is the list of those substances that have been officially reviewed and established by the EU authorities (because the substances on this list are the most hazardous). These substances are also known as "Annex VI" chemicals, or chemicals with a "harmonised" classification. Substances on this list will have either a red or a black flag.

The second source is in the process of being established. This is a self classification and harmonisation process lead by industry but with the EU authorities looking closely over their shoulders. These substances will have an orange or a green flag. Only green flag chemicals will have no hazard statement at all.

Substances of very high concern (SVHC's)

Whether a substance gets a red or a black flag depends on whether the EU wants to phase out this chemical in the coming years because of its very high toxicity to man and/or the environment. The current EU list of substances of very high concern is at the moment rather small (but growing). However, there is consensus that the final list will look very much like the current SIN-list (Substitute It Now list). Chemicals on the SIN-list and/or the official SVHC list will have a black flag.

Chemicals which are to be phased out, are called "substances of very high concern". If you search the data base you may occasionally find as the only hazard statement "substance of very high concern". This happens, because the particular chemical will not (yet) be an established EU Annex VI chemical but will only be on the SIN-list and/or the official SVHC list. However, have no doubt: such chemical will deserve its black flag.

Restricted substances

In addition to substances of very high concern, the EU has also put use restrictions on a number of chemicals. Also these substances have been taken up in the Toxlist database. There can of course be an overlap between "Annex VI" chemicals, SVHC's and use-restricted chemicals. If a chemical is neither an "Annex VI" chemical, nor an SVHC, then you will find as hazard statement "restricted substance", with a red flag.

Where to find the chemical components of a product

The EU reporting standard for the chemical components of a particular product is its Safety Data Sheet. This is a legally binding document in a standard EU format. Any chemical constituent in a concentration of 0.1% or more will be listed. The 0.1% cut-off has been chosen, since this is also the cut-off for the hazard classification of mixtures in the EU.

You should have the chemical components of the product in question at hand. Your supplier should be able (and is legally required) to give you this within 45 days of your request.

To assist you in getting a first impression, below are a number of links towards common consumer products and their chemical constituents: Toys, Building materials, Electrical and electronic equipment including lighting, Paints, Wood, Fabrics/clothing/textiles, Household cleaining ingredients.


What does the data base not tell you? PVC window frames are a good example. If you search for PVC (or its full name polyvinylchloride) or its CAS number (PVC doesn't have an EC number) you will find it not yet present. And when present in future, it will have a green flag. How is that possible, as its use is under debate?

The explanation is, that PVC as such is a non-hazardous polymer. Classifications are not determined for instance by the composition of the toxic fumes when substances are incompletely burned (such as dioxins in the case of PVC). Nor by the raw materials used for their synthesis (in this case vinyl chloride which you will find in the data base) unless these impurities are present in concentrations of at least 0.1%. That would require a complete life cycle analysis and is well beyond this data base.

However, there is another, even more pressing reason, why PVC should not be used. That is, because it is usually mixed with high amounts of certain plasticisers (belonging to the chemical group of phthalates) which may damage fertility or the unborn child. If you search for phthalate, you will find a number of those entries.

Your product under scrutiny, under the heading "composition", should contain the make up of e.g. a PVC window frame. You would then see that it contains some 70% PVC and 30% of a phthalate. By searching PVC you would find a green flag, but by searching the phthalate you would find a black flag. This means, that from the point of view of this data base PVC windows frames would still be okay, provided the phthalate would be substituted by a different, non-hazardous plasticiser.

ToxList is an initiative of Stadex Nederland BV.