Substances of Very High Concern (SVHCs) are identified under the European Chemicals Regulation REACH, particularly substances fulfilling one or more of the criteria defined in Article 57 of the REACH Regulation. These are substances that have severe impacts on human health due to some of their characteristic properties; they can be carcinogenic or mutagenic substances, or they might have serious effects on the environment, such as being very persistent and strongly accumulate in organisms.
All identified SVHCs are included in the so-called REACH Candidate List, which is managed by the European Chemicals Agency (ECHA). This Candidate List is updated twice a year with newly identified SVHCs. For example, it includes certain phthalates, brominated flame retardants and perfluorinated compounds. These substances are sometimes used in the production of articles, to give the article certain desired characteristics. Examples of such material characteristics or properties include cleavage, density, ductility, electrical conductivity, hardness, magnetism, melting point, etc.
A very common example of SVHCs are phthalates, which are often used as plasticizers to make plastics softer and more flexible or harder to break. Certain phthalates have been classified as “reprotoxic”, having a damaging effect on reproduction. Another example is a substance called ADCA, (or azo(bis)formamide) which is sometimes called a 'yoga mat' chemical because of its widespread use in foamed plastics. It is used as a foaming agent in the manufacturing process. ADCA was added to the Candidate list in 2012 for its respiratory sensitizing properties.
If a substance listed on the Candidate List is contained in articles, this may trigger certain obligations for companies producing, importing or supplying these articles. These obligations are discussed in the page “Your obligation to tell about SVHCs in articles”. If an article contains substances on the Candidate List, the consumers may want to be aware of them due to the undesirable properties of these substances.
Note: Member States propose a substance to be identified as a substance of very high concern (SVHC) by preparing a dossier in line with the requirements set out in Annex XV to REACH. Check authorisation process.