The screening of (potential) chemicals under discussion is mandatory for several production processes. It requires a critical assessment of the health and environmental relevance of constituents in mixtures and articles.
Substances of Very High Concern (SVHC)
Chemicals that are known to be very critical, so-called substances of very high concern (SVHC), require special attention in the risk assessment process. Article 55 of the Registration, Evaluation, Authorisation and Restriction of Chemicals (REACH) Regulation demands to assure that the risks from substances of very high concern are properly monitored and that these substances are progressively replaced by suitable alternative substances or technologies, if economically and technically viable. For such chemicals regulatory evaluations are considered.
Mineral oils have recently taken a centre stage within the food safety debate. These are not clearly defined chemical substances but highly complex mixtures of hydrocarbons with varying carbon numbers and structures. Due to this complexity, it is nearly impossible to carry out a proper toxicological risk assessment.
Mineral oil components are distinguished between MOSH (mineral oil saturated hydrocarbons) and MOAH (mineral oil aromatic hydrocarbons) components.
- The presence of carcinogenic and mutagenic substances therefore cannot be excluded.
- Such compounds may interact with the DNA, the genetic material of human cells, and can consequentially cause cancer.
- Animal studies show that MOSH may accumulate in granulomas in various tissues, mainly in liver and lymph nodes.
Non-evaluated mineral oils therefore need to be safely shielded off from the food by functional barriers. Some adhesives and inks used in packaging contain intentionally added mineral oil components.
Some mineral oil components are evaluated on European level and allowed for food contact applications or even as food additive (E905).
Plasticizers are substances which are added to brittle materials to make them soft, ductile, or extendible, so that they can be worked more easily or acquire particular characteristics of use. The additives therefore can be found in plastics, varnishes, coating agents, sealing compounds, industrial and natural rubber articles, and adhesives.