LIFE AskREACH Christmas tests

20 / 02 / 2020

An article-test conducted in the frame of the AskREACH project revealed high levels of harmful substances in artificial Christmas trees, Christmas balls and light chains. In total 26 samples of Christmas trees (11), Christmas balls (11), and light chains (4) from Austria, Germany and Czechia were analysed in external laboratories for so called “Substances of High Concern” (SVHC), like plasticiser, flame retardants, lead and chlorinated paraffins.

Fifty percent of the samples contained SVHCs above 0,1% and thus fall under the “right for information” which is laid down in the European chemical regulation REACH. However, none of the companies, where the articles were purchased from, met their legal duty to communicate information on problematic chemicals in their articles upon our requests.

Furthermore, 10 products (more than one third) exceeded legal thresholds of different chemical regulations and should never have been placed on the market: 6 articles (3 trees and 3 light chains) contained short chain chlorinated paraffins (SCCP) above 0,15%, which are regulated in the POP-regulation (EU Regulation 850/2004, amended by EU 2015/2030) and therefore not allowed to be placed on the market. 3 christmas balls contained the flame retardant Deca-BDE which is regulated in the Commission Regulation 2017/227 of 9 February 2017 as regards bis(pentabromophenyl)ether, and are therefore not allowed to be placed on the market.

4 out of 4 light chains contained the phthalate DEHP above 0,1% which is regulated in the RoHS regulation (2011/65/EU, amended by 2015/863/EU) and therefore are not allowed to be placed on the market. The highest concentration of DEHP was measured in a light chain with 27%.

For all the articles purchased, an SVHC request was sent to the retailer. Most of them didn’t answer in the 45 days period and had to be reminded. Several answered that their articles are “reach conform”, which is not the correct answer to a SVHCs request. According to article 33(2) of the REACH regulation, producers or retailers have to provide at least the name of the SVHC and instructions for safe use of the article within 45 days. In summary, of the articles which contained SVHCs above 0,1%, 100% of the answers to the SVHC requests were wrong. However, several retailers have now already taken the concerned articles off the market.


Our findings are in line with a recent study by ECHA, which found that 88% of suppliers of products containing SVHCs above 0,1% are failing to communicate sufficient information to their customers about SVHCs in the products they supply.

The results show that the awareness in companies about their duties is still very low. Strong measures have to be taken to improve the implementation of the REACH regulation, both from companies but also from enforcement authorities. The findings also show that everyday products are not controlled strictly enough on the European market, with more than one third of samples being in breach of different chemical regulations.


We are using cookies to give you the best experience on our site. By continuing to use our site, you are agreeing to our use of cookies.
Learn more