Chemical regulations and their significance for European companies manufacturing furniture in Vietnam 

a vietnamese furniture manufacturer

In our recent interview with Chementors Oy – a leading European chemical consultant – we discussed how European chemical regulations can impact companies manufacturing articles, mixtures or substances in Vietnam.
For companies manufacturing in Vietnam and wanting to sell or export to Europe, it’s crucial to fully understand and comply with the strict European regulations.

Can you provide a short overview of different chemical regulations (for example the REACH) and their significance for European companies manufacturing in Vietnam and selling to the EU?

Depending on your product type, several chemical regulations may apply when the product is placed on the EU market. 

Your product might be classified as an article (furniture, clothes, accessories, etc.), a mixture (paint, detergent, coating, etc.), or a substance (ethylene, isopropanol, sulfuric acid, etc.). 

Different specific EU regulations must be fulfilled for each of these product categories. These regulations might include for example:

  • The REACH Regulation
  • The Biocidal Products Regulation (BPR)
  • The Waste Framework Directive 
  • Plant Protection Products Regulation
  • Regulation on plastic materials and articles intended to come into contact with food
  • The CLP Regulation
  • The Toy Directive
  • Restriction of Hazardous Substances Directive (RoHS)
  • General Safety Product Regulation, etc.

Following regulations concerning imported products is important to ensure that your importing activities remain legal. Failing to comply with these regulations can result in rejections at borders, fines, or product withdrawals, and might harm your company’s reputation. Withdrawals, for example, have already happened several times for Vietnamese products.

This is why it is essential to work with a specialist such as Chementors, who will assess which regulations apply specifically to your products and ensure their full compliance with all regulatory requirements. 

How do these regulations impact European companies that manufacture furniture in Vietnam and sell it to the EU area? Are there any specific challenges they face?

Furniture is defined as an article under the REACH Regulation and the Waste Framework Directive. Therefore, if any substance of very high concern (SVHC) is found in the product in a concentration above 0.1% w/w, the EU supplier is obliged to submit a SCIP notification and possibly also a REACH notification to the European Chemicals Agency (ECHA). These notifications can only be done by an EU entity.

In addition, if the furniture is treated with a biocidal product (for example mattress treated with fungicide) containing an active substance that is not yet on the Approval List, BPR registration for the active substance must also be made. 

It is also very important to note that manufacturers in Vietnam must also follow all Vietnamese chemical regulations.

Generally, the knowledge of relevant EU regulations and lack of clear advice on how to comply with them are big challenges in Vietnam. Also in many cases, just to be aware of these regulations is not enough. All certifications and notifications sent to the European Chemical Agency require specific competency and experience. Chementors works to help companies in Vietnam and the EU with these issues.

Also, in some cases like the example above, a Vietnamese entity is not eligible to fulfill its obligations overseas, as many of the notifications must be done by a European entity, such as by the EU importer, or by appointing an EU representative such as Chementors.

a worker assembling a piece of furniture in vietnam

What are the common chemical substances and materials used in furniture manufacturing that may be subject to the above-mentioned regulations?

Melamine is a very common component in the wood furniture supply chain and is used as a substance both in the resins to produce panels and in the resins used for the impregnation of the covering papers. 

Another example you might find in furniture is N-(hydroxymethyl)acrylamide, a substance included in the SVHC List because of its carcinogenic and mutagenic properties. This substance is used as raw material for paints, coatings, and adhesives for metals and wood, and also for copolymer monomers. 

One important group of chemicals commonly used in manufactured furniture products and highly addressed in EU chemical regulations is Flame Retardants. Many compounds in this group, especially halogenated flame retardants and organophosphorus flame retardants, have been included in the SVHC List or are being continuously proposed to the SVHC List. 

These example substances are so-called Substances of Very High Concern (SVHC), so they have the SCIP notification obligation and the REACH obligation. 

The total amount of SVHC substances is currently 235 (as of December 2023) and ECHA revises the SVHC List every 6 months. It is very important to screen all substances used by the manufacturer to comply with all regulations.

What role do European companies have in ensuring the compliance of their supply chain partners in Vietnam with those regulations?

It is important to note that duty holders under EU chemical regulations are EU-based entities. This means the EU importers have legal responsibilities to comply with the regulations applied to the products that they plan to import to the EU market. Chementors as an EU-based entity can assist the manufacturers in Vietnam and the EU importer with all regulation tasks.

To maintain the lead role in regulatory compliance, EU companies must

Are there any specific exemptions or exceptions under EU Chemical regulations that European furniture manufacturers in Vietnam should be aware of when it comes to chemicals used in their products?

Regarding BPR Regulation, if furniture products are treated with or intentionally incorporated with a biocide containing an active substance that is approved in the EU for the relevant product type and use, no BPR registration is required. 

In addition, the registration obligation is exempted to the treated furniture where the only treatment undertaken was the fumigation or disinfection of premises or containers used for storage or transport and where no residues are expected to remain from such treatment. 

This can be relevant, for example, to the premises or containers, used for storage or transport of the furniture, which is required by a trade agreement to go through a fumigation or disinfection treatment before the furniture can be imported to the EU market to prevent the transmission of harmful organisms to animal or human.

When it comes to REACH Regulation, there are some cases when an SVHC notification is not required:

  • The producer or importer of an article can exclude the exposure of humans and the environment to the substance during normal or reasonably foreseeable conditions of use of the article, including its disposal. In these cases, the producers and importers will give appropriate instructions to the recipient of the article.
  • The substance has already been registered under REACH in the EU for that use.
  • The concentration of the SVHC substance in the article is less than 0.1 % w/w.
  • The SVHC substance is present in the article in quantities of less than 1 ton/year.