With the most ambitious chemicals legislation in the world, as a European citizen, perhaps you think that you are impeccably protected against exposure to hazardous chemicals. Well, think again.
ECHA, the European Chemicals Agency, recently published their five-year review, presenting a disturbing reality. It is obvious that the chemicals legislation is in dire need of better enforcement. Here are 5 highlights from the review that should be of concern for all of us:
1. 18% of consumer products contained illegal amounts of restricted chemicals
This is an alarming number. In addition, when analyzing toys for children, 20% were found to contain banned phthalates.
2. 33% of safety data sheets are deficient
The safety data sheets are used to inform users about the potentially hazardous properties of chemicals. According to the review, they are deficient because they lack information on hazard identification and exposure controls. Further on, 44% of the inspected chemical mixtures are found to be classified incorrectly, potentially leading to unsafe use.
3. In 9% of the investigated cases, substances are illegally placed on the market, in breach of the authorization duty
Some of the most hazardous chemicals need to be authorized in order to be put on the market. This rule is at the core of the current legal framework, and it is deeply troubling that compliance isn’t 100%. Every breach of the authorization process is a potential risk for the health of European citizens.
4. 89% of suppliers don’t communicate information down the supply chain
This lack of communication makes it impossible for consumers to receive adequate information about the presence of hazardous substances. It might also be problem for companies that are basically selling products containing hazardous chemicals in good faith.
5. 71% of imported products from outside of the EU have incorrect labels
This is usually due to incorrect language, or wrong/missing hazard statements. In addition, 83% of online advertisement were missing required information on hazard. So be careful what you order online!
We can do better than this – we have to
The European chemicals legislation is the most ambitious one of its kind. However, as the annual five-year evaluation shows, the need for better enforcement is staggering. If there are any flaws in the legal text, they need to be corrected.
European citizens should be able to expect a lot more. Unfortunately, they can still not rest fully assured that products on the market are as safe as they might have been led to believe.
Ultimately, as the REACH revision is under way, and several other initiatives have been presented – such as the Chemicals Strategy for Sustainability – the EU has a golden opportunity to plug the loopholes and make its chemicals legislation even better.
This is what we at ChemSec will keep in mind, as we continue pushing for stricter enforcement and the eventual phasing out of hazardous chemicals from the market and our everyday lives.