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How to Understand REACH Use Descriptors

By Little Pro on 2016-10-15 Views:  Update:2017-01-18

REACH use descriptor system is a system developed by ECHA to facilitate chemical risk assessment and supply chain communication. Under REACH, registrants who are required to carry out an exposure assessment have to address all identified uses of the substance and communicate the registered uses to downstream users. The downstream users also need to make sure that their uses are covered by REACH registration. In this tutorial, we will teach you how to map uses using REACH descriptor system and explain how the use descriptors are relevant to chemical risk assessment. 

Overview of REACH Use Descriptors

REACH uses 5 descriptors such as sector of use (SU), process category (PROC), product category (PC), article category (AC) and environmental release category (ERC) to describe identified uses (see table below). Many of those descriptors can be used as input parameters to derive exposure estimates in modelling tools such as ECETOC-TRA and EUSES

Category Description
Life cycle stage
  • For each use, the life cycle stage of the substance must be firstly identified.
  • Includes: manufacture, formulation (including repacking), industrial use, professional use, consumer use, service life stage (for article) and waste treatment.
Sector of use (SU)
  • Describes in which sector the substance is used.
  • 3 main sectors: SU3: industrial; SU21: consumer; SU22: professional. 
Process category (PROC)
  • Describes the application techniques or process types;
  • Process category (PROC), operational conditions and risk management measures determine the level of occupational exposure for workers and professional users.
  • Example: PROC7: Industrial spraying; PROC8a: Transfer of substance or preparation (charging/discharging) from/to vessels/large containers at dedicated facilities.
  • Key input parameter in ECETOC TRA tool to derive worker exposure levels.
Product category (PC)
  • Describes the types of chemical products in which a substance is used.
  • Product category, operational conditions and risk management measures primarily determine the level of consumer exposure.
  • Examples: PC9a: Coatings and paints, thinners, paint removers; PC39: Cosmetics, personal care products
Article Category (AC)
  • Describes the type of article (including plastics and dried mixture) in which the substance has been processed. 
  • Examples: AC2: Machinery, mechanical appliances, electrical/electronic articles; AC13: Plastic articles 
Environmental Release Category (ERC)
  • Describes the broad conditions of use from an environmental perspective, based on those characteristics that give a first indication of the potential release of the substance to the environment.
  • Determines the level of enviromental exposure.
  • Examples: ERC2: Formulation of preparations; ERC6a: Industrial use resulting in the manufacture of another substance (use of intermediates); ERC8a: Wide dispersive indoor use of processing aids in open systems

To be more specific, sector of use (SU), product category (PC) and article category (AC) describe market sectors while PROCs and ERCs describe specific activities. It should be noted that not all descriptors above are applicable at all stages of the life cycle. For example:

  • Manufacture of a substance: product category and article category are not applicable (no consumer exposure).
  • Formulation (including repacking): product category and article category are usually not applicable (no consumer exposure). 
  • Consumer use of a substance: process category is not applicable.
  • A substance that is not incorporated to article: article category not applicable. 

The picture below shows you how to map all uses with pigment as an example (market sector shall always be determined first).

REACH Use Descriptor

Example: REACH Use Mapping

Let's assume that there are 4 uses for substance A at different life cycle stages.

  • Use 1 manufacture of substance (Life cycle stage: manufacture)
  • Use 2 manufacture of cleaning products (Life cycle stage: formulation)
  • Use 3 professional use of cleaning products by auto maintenance workers (Life cycle stage: professional use)
  • Use 4 consumer use of cleaning products (Life cycle stage: consumer use)

 The likely mapped uses using REACH use descriptors will be listed as follows.

Use Sector of Use Process Category Product Category Article Category ERCs
1 SU3, SU8, SU9 PROC1, PROC2, PROC3, PROC4, PROC8a, PROC8b, PROC15 Not applicable Not applicable ERC1
2 SU10 PROC1, PROC2, PROC3, PROC4, PROC8b, PROC9 Not applicable Not applicable ERC2
3 SU22 PROC1, PROC2, PROC4, PROC81, PROC8b, PROC11, PROC13 PC35 Not applicable ERC8a
4 SU21 Not applicable PC35 Not applicable ERC8a

Various industry associations have already mapped their own uses. It is very convenient to refer to those mapped uses to describe your own use. Some of those mapped uses are available as follows:

The picture below shows you how to record an exposure scenario using standard format.

Exposure Scenario

REACH Use Descriptor: Sector of Use (SU) Code

 SU 8,9   U 8,9 - Manufacture of chemicals
 SU14   SU14 -  Manufacture of basic metals  
 SU 10    SU10 - Formulation  
 SU 3   SU3-  Industrial uses  
 SU 22   SU22 -  Consumer uses  
 SU 21   SU21 - Professional uses  
 SU 0-1   SU 0-1 - Other activity related to manufacturing of chemical products ( NACE Code to be used only; see last row )  
 SU 0-2   SU 0-2 - Other activities related to manufacture and services ( NACE Code to be used only: see last row)  
 SU1   SU1 -  Agriculture, forestry, fishery  
 SU2a   SU2a - Mining, (without offshore industries)  
 SU2b   SU2b - Offshore industries  
 SU4   SU4 - Manufacture of food products  
 SU5   SU5 - Manufacture of textiles, leather, fur  
 SU6   SU6 - Manufacture of pulp, paper and paper products  
 SU7   SU7 - Printing and reproduction of recorded media  
 SU8   SU8 - Manufacture of bulk, large scale chemicals (including petroleum products)  
 SU9   SU9 - Manufacture of fine chemicals  
 SU11   SU11 - Manufacture of rubber products  
 SU12   SU12 - Manufacture of plastics products, including compounding and conversion  
 SU13   SU13 - Manufacture of other non-metallic mineral products, e.g. plasters, cement  
 SU15   SU15 -Manufacture of fabricated metal products, except machinery and equipment  
 SU16   SU16 - Manufacture of computer, electronic and optical products, electrical equipment  
 SU17   SU17 - General manufacturing, e.g. machinery, equipment, vehicles, other transport equipment.  
 SU18   SU18 - Manufacture of furniture  
 SU19   SU19 - Building and construction work  
 SU20   SU20 - Health services  
 SU23   SU23 - Recycling  

REACH Use Descriptor: Process Category (PROC) Code

 PROC 0  - Other Process or activity  
 PROC 1  - Use in closed process, no likelihood of ex-posure
 PROC 2 - Use in closed, continuous process with oc-casional controlled exposure (e.g. sam-pling)  
 PROC 3  - Use in closed batch process (synthesis or formulation)  
 PROC 4 -  Use in batch and other process (synthesis) where opportunity for exposure arises  
 PROC 5 - Mixing or blending in batch processes for formulation of preparations and articles (multistage and/or significant contact)  
 PROC 6 - Calendering operations  
 PROC 7 -  Industrial spraying 
 PROC 8a - Transfer of substance or preparation (charging/discharging) from/to vessels/large containers at non-dedicated facilities  
 PROC 8b - Transfer of substance or preparation (charging/discharging) from/to vessels/large containers at dedicated facilities  
 PROC 9 - Transfer of substance or preparation into small containers (dedicated filling line, including weighing)  
 PROC 10 -  Roller application or brushing  
 PROC 11 - Non industrial spraying  
 PROC 12 - Use of blowing agents in manufacture offoam  
 PROC 13 - Treatment of articles by dipping and pour-ing  
 PROC 14  - Production of preparations or articles by tabletting, compression, extrusion, pelleti-sation  
 PROC 15 -  Use as laboratory reagent  
 PROC 16 - Using material as fuel sources, limited ex-posure to unburned product to be expected  
 PROC 17  - Lubrication at high energy conditions and in partly open process  
 PROC 18 - Greasing at high energy conditions  
 PROC 19 - Hand-mixing with intimate contact and only PPE available.  
 PROC 20  - Heat and pressure transfer fluids in disper-sive, professional use but closed systems
 PROC 21  - Low energy manipulation of substances in form of massive metal or bound in other materials and/or articles
 PROC 22  - Potentially closed processing operations with minerals/metals at elevated tempera-ture  
 PROC 23  - Open processing and transfer operations with minerals/metals at elevated tempera-ture
 PROC 24  - High (mechanical) energy work-up of mas-sive metals or substances bound in materi-als and/or articles 
 PROC 25  - Other hot work operations with metals Welding, soldering, gouging, brazing, flame cutting 
 PROC 26  - Handling of solid inorganic substances at ambient temperature
 PROC 27 -  Production of metal powders

REACH Use Descriptor: Product Category (PC) Code

 PC0   PC0  - Other products (use UCN codes: see last row)  
 PC1    PC1  - Adhesives, Sealants  
 PC2    PC2  - Adsorbents  
 PC3    PC3  - Air care products  
 PC4    PC4  - Anti-Freeze and De-icing products  
 PC5    PC5  - Artists Supply and Hobby preparations  
 PC7    PC7  - Base metals and alloys  
 PC8    PC8  - Biocidal Products (e.g. Disinfectants, pest control)  
 PC9a    PC9a  - Coatings and Paints, Thinners, paint remov-ers  
 PC9b    PC9b  - Fillers, Putties  
 PC10    PC10  - Building and construction preparations not covered elsewhere  
 PC11    PC11  - Explosives  
 PC12    PC12  - Fertilizers  
 PC13    PC13  - Fuels  
 PC14    PC14  - Metal surface treatment products, including galvanic and electroplating products  
 PC15    PC15  - Non-metal-surface treatment products  
 PC16    PC16  - Heat Transfer Fluids  
 PC17    PC17  - Hydraulic Fluids  
 PC18    PC18  - Ink and Toners  
 PC19    PC19  - Intermediate  
 PC20    PC20  - Products such as ph-regulators, flocculants, precipitants, neutralization agents, other un-specific  
 PC21    PC21  - Laboratory Chemicals  
 PC22    PC22  - Lawn and Garden Preparations, including fertilizers  
 PC23    PC23  - Leather tanning, dye, finishing, impregnation and care produts
 PC24    PC24  - Lubricants, Greases and Release Products  
 PC25    PC25  - Metal Working Fluids  
 PC26    PC26  - Paper and board dye, finishing and impregna-tion products: including bleaches and other processing aids;  
 PC27    PC27  - Plant Protection Products  
 PC28    PC28  - Perfumes, Fragrances  
 PC29    PC29  - Pharmaceuticals  
 PC30    PC30  - Photochemicals  
 PC31    PC31  - Polishes and Wax Blends  
 PC32    PC32  - Polymer Preparations and Compounds  
 PC33    PC33  - Semiconductors  
 PC34    PC34  - Textile dyes, finishing and impregnating products; including bleaches and other proc-essing aids;  
 PC35    PC35  - Washing and Cleaning Products (including solvent based products)  
 PC36    PC36  - Water softeners  
 PC37    PC37  - Water treatment chemicals  
 PC38    PC38  - Welding and soldering products, flux prod-ucts  
 PC39    PC39  - Cosmetics, personal care products  
 PC40    PC40  - Extraction agents  

REACH Use Descriptor: Article Category (PC) Code

 AC 0   AC 0  - Other Articles (use TARIC terminology: see last row)
 AC 1-1    AC 1-1  - Passenger cars and motor cycles  
 AC 1-2    AC 1-2  - Other vehicles: Railway, aircraft, vessels, boats, trucks, and associated transport equipment  
 AC 2    AC 2  - Machinery and mechanical appliances thereof  
 AC 3-1    AC 3-1  - Electrical and electronic products, e.g. computers, office equipment, video and audio recording, communication equipment  
 AC 3-2    AC 3-2  - Electrical batteries and accumulators  
 AC 3-3    AC 3-3  - Electrical and electronic products: Household appliances (white ware)  
 AC 3-4    AC 3-4  - Photographic and reprographic articles: cameras, video cameras  
 AC 4    AC 4  - Glass and ceramic products: dinner ware, pots, pans, food storage con-tainers  
 AC 5-1    AC 5-1  - Fabrics, textiles and apparel: bedding and clothing  
 AC 5-2    AC 5-2  - Fabrics, textiles and apparel: curtains, upholstery, carpeting/flooring, rugs,  
 AC 6    AC 6  - Leather products: apparel and upholstery  
 AC 7-1    AC 7-1  - Metal products: cutlery, cooking utensils, pots, pans,  
 AC 7-2    AC 7-2  - Metal products: toys  
 AC 7-3    AC 7-3  - Metal products: furniture  
 AC 8-1    AC 8-1  - Paper products: tissue, towels, disposable dinnerware, nappies, feminine hygiene products, adult incontinence products, writing paper  
 AC 8-2    AC 8-2  - Paper products: newspaper, packaging  
 AC 9    AC 9  - Photographic and reprographic articles: films, printed photographs  
 AC 10-1    AC 10-1  - Rubber products: tyres  
 AC 10-2    AC 10-2  - Rubber products: flooring  
 AC 10-3    AC 10-3  - Rubber products: footwear  
 AC 10-4    AC 10-4  - Rubber products: toys  
 AC 10-5    AC 10-5  - Other general rubber products  
 AC 11-1    AC 11-1  - Wood and wood furniture: flooring  
 AC 11-2    AC 11-2  - Wood and wood furniture: furniture  
 AC 11-3    AC 11-3  - Wood and wood furniture: toys  
 AC 12-1    AC 12-1  - Constructional articles and building material: wall construction material ceramic, metal, plastic and wood construction material, insulating mate-rial (without indoor flooring) 
 AC 13-1    AC 13-1  - Commercial/consumer plastic products like disposable dinner ware, food storage, food packaging, baby bottles  
 AC 13-2    AC 13-2  - Plastic products: Flooring 
 AC 13-3    AC 13-3  - Plastic products: Toys  
 AC30   AC30 - Other articles with intended release of substances
 AC31   AC31 - Scented clothes
 AC32   AC32 -Scented eraser
 AC34   AC-4 - Scented Toys
 AC35   AC35 - Scented paper articles
 AC36   AC36 - Scented CD
 AC37   AC37 - Other scented articles; please
 AC38   AC38 - Packaging material for metal parts, releasing grease/corrosion inhibitors
 AC39   AC39 - Other articles releasing grease or corrosion inhibitors;

REACH Use Descriptor: Environmental Release Category (ERC) Code

ERC 1  - Manufacture of substances   Manufacture of organic and inorganic substances in chemical, petro-chemical, primary metals and minerals industry including intermedi-ates, monomers using continuous processes or batch processes.
 ERC 2  - Formulation of preparations   Mixing and blending of substances into (chemical) preparations in all types of formulating industries
 ERC 3  - Formulation in materials   Mixing or blending of substances, which will be physically or chemi-cally bound into or onto a matrix (material) such as plastics additives in master batches or plastic compounds. 
 ERC 4  - Industrial use of processing aids in processes and products, not becoming part of articles   Industrial use of processing aids in continuous processes or batch processes applying dedicated or multi-purpose equipment, either tech-nically controlled or operated by manual interventions. For example, solvents used in chemical reactions or the ‘use’ of solvents during the application of paints, lubricants in metal working fluids, anti-set off agents in polymer moulding/casting
 ERC 5  - Industrial use resulting in in-clusion into or onto a matrix   Industrial use of substances as such or in preparations (non-processing aids), which will be physically or chemically bound into or onto a ma-trix (material) such as binding agent in paints and coatings or adhesives, dyes in textile fabrics and leather products, metals in coatings applied through plating and galvanizing processes. The category covers substances in articles with a particular function and also substances remaining in the article after having been used as processing aid in an earlier life cycle stage.
 ERC 6A -  Industrial use resulting in manufacture of another sub-stance (use of intermediates) Use of intermediates in primarily the chemical industry using continuous processes or batch processes applying dedicated or multi-purpose equipment, either technically controlled or operated by manual inter-ventions, for the synthesis (manufacture) of other substances. For instance the use of chemical building blocks (feedstock) in the synthesis of agrochemicals, pharmaceuticals, monomers etc.
 ERC 6B  - Industrial use of reactive processing aids   Industrial use of reactive processing aids in continuous processes or batch processes applying dedicated or multi-purpose equipment, either technically controlled or operated by manual interventions. For exam-ple the use of bleaching agents in the paper industry.
 ERC 6C  - Industrial use of monomers for polymerisation   Industrial use of monomers in the production of plastics (thermoplas-tics), polymerization processes. For example the use of vinyl chloride monomer in the production of PVC
 ERC 6D  - Industrial use of auxiliaries for polymerisation processes in production of resins, rubbers, polymers   Industrial use of chemicals (cross-linking agents, curing agents) in the production of thermosets and rubbers, polymerization processes. For instance the use of styrene in polyester production or vulcanization agents in the production of rubbers
 ERC 7  - Industrial use of substances in closed systems   Industrial use of substances in closed systems. Use in closed equipment, such as the use of liquids in hydraulic systems, cooling liquids in refrigerators and with the product producedlubricants in engines and dielectric fluids in electric transformers and oil in heat exchangers. No intended contact with the products produced.
 ERC 8A -  Wide dispersive indoor use of processing aids in open systems  Indoor use of processing aids by the public at large or professional use. Use (usually) results in direct release into the environ-ment/sewage system, for example, detergents in fabric washing, ma-chine wash liquids and lavatory cleaners, automotive and bicycle care products (polishes, lubricants, de-icers), solvents in paints and adhe-sives or fragrances and aerosol propellants in air fresheners.
 ERC 8B  - Wide dispersive indoor use of reactive substances in open systems   Indoor use of reactive substances by the public at large or professional use. Use (usually) results in direct release into the environment, for example, sodium hypochlorite in lavatory cleaners, bleaching agents in fabric washing products, hydrogen peroxide in dental care products
 ERC 8C  - Wide dispersive indoor use resulting in inclusion into or onto a matrix   Indoor use of substances (non-processing aids) by the public at large or professional use, which will be physically or chemically bound into or onto a matrix (material) such as binding agent in paints and coat-ings or adhesives, dyeing of textile fabrics.
 ERC 8D  - Wide dispersive outdoor use of processing aids in open systems   Outdoor use of processing aids by the public at large or professional use. Use (usually) results in direct release into the environment, for example, automotive and bicycle care products (polishes, lubricants, de-icers, detergents), solvents in paints and adhesives.
 ERC 8E  - Wide dispersive outdoor use of reactive substances in open systems   Outdoor use of reactive substances by the public at large or profes-sional use. 
 ERC 8F  - Wide dispersive outdoor use resulting in inclusion into or onto a matrix   Outdoor use of substances (non-processing aids) by the public at large or professional use, which will be physically or chemically bound into or onto a matrix (material) such as binding agent in paints.
 ERC 9A  - Wide dispersive indoor use of substances in closed systems   Indoor use of substances by the public at large or professional (small scale) use in closed systems. Use in closed equipment, such as the use of cooling liquids in refrigerators, oil-based electric heaters.
 ERC 9B  - Wide dispersive outdoor use of substances in closed sys-tems   Outdoor use of substances by the public at large or professional (small scale) use in closed systems. Use in closed equipment, such as the use of hydraulic liquids in automotive suspension, lubricants in motor oil and break fluids in automotive brake systems.
 ERC 10A  - Wide dispersive outdoor use of long-life articles and mate-rials with low release   Low release of substances included into or onto articles and materials during their service life in outdoor use, such as metal, wooden and plastic construction and building materials (gutters, drains, frames etc.)
 ERC 10B  - Wide dispersive outdoor use of long-life articles and mate-rials with high or intended release   Substances included into or onto articles and materials with high or intended release during their service life from outdoor use. Such as tyres, treated wooden products, treated textile and fabric like sun blinds and parasols.

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