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Consumer Products

Hazardous substances turn up in EU products

EU chemical suppliers are accused of failing to inform customers of high-concern chemicals

by Alex Scott
November 21, 2019 | A version of this story appeared in Volume 97, Issue 46


Some 88% of chemical suppliers are failing to tell European customers when their products contain substances of very high concern (SVHCs), according to a study by the European Chemicals Agency (ECHA), the body responsible for implementing chemical regulations in the European Union. The failure is a breach of the regulations, which classify SVHCs as present when at concentrations of more than 0.1% by weight.


The share of chemical suppliers failing to tell customers that their products contain substances of very high concern

Source: ECHA

The same study found that SVHCs are present in 12% of consumer products such as footwear and electronic accessories. Chemicals classified as SVHCs have restricted uses.

For the study, ECHA inspected 682 consumer products made by 405 companies across 15 European countries. SVHCs identified in the consumer goods include various phthalates, heavy metals, and short-chain chloroparaffins.

ECHA says the problem can be solved if companies improve knowledge of their products and better communicate this information to customers. The agency plans to publish new guidance on communication in the supply chain late next year.

But the Swedish environmental group ChemSec says ECHA should do more. It wants clear follow-up with a plan for how enforcement officials will tackle the issue. “We have had the same problems for more than 10 years. Carrots are not enough. It’s time to use the stick,” ChemSec deputy director Frida Hök says.


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