LIFE AskREACH: Many consumer products still contain harmful chemicals

30 / 06 / 2022

The long desired summer months are lying ahead and many of us are already looking forward to activities such as swimming, gardening or getting work done around the house. This is why we, at the “LIFE AskREACH” project, have had a closer look at products needed for these activities.

A comprehensive test on swimming, gardening and DIY products all across Europe showed, that many articles still contain chemicals that are harmful for either humans, the environment, or even both. Some of the analyzed articles are not even legally allowed on the European market anymore.

In total, 106 articles were bought in 13 different EU-countries. The articles were sent to an independent and accredited laboratory and analyzed for substances of very high concern (= SVHCs). These substances can have various negative effects on human health and the environment. They can for example cause cancer, damage our DNA, disrupt our hormone system or persist and accumulate in the environment.

 

Almost a third of the articles analyzed contained at least one SVHC and 10 articles contained SVHCs above the threshold of 0,1% by weight. 7 articles even contained plasticizers that have been restricted in consumer articles in July 2020 due to their negative effects on our hormone system. Already in very low concentrations can they be toxic to reproduction. Nevertheless, these plasticizers were found in concentrations of up to 23% by weight, which means that almost a quarter of the article was made from these harmful substances. These high concentrations of plasticizers were found for example in gardening gloves and even in a painting apron for children.

In a joint rubber 4 carcinogenic and persistent polycyclic hydrocarbons have been detected over the limit value. These SVHCs are also additionally restricted according to the EU chemicals regulation REACH and the article was not fit to be placed on the EU market.

Many SVHCs are still allowed to be present in consumer products, but are to be communicated along the supply chain and, upon request, also towards consumers. Therefore, consumers can request SVHC information about any article, from any company selling or reselling this article. If an SVHC is present above a concentration of 0,1 % by weight, the retailer, importer and producer is legally bound to provide the consumer with this information. This is statutory according to the EU chemicals regulation REACH. By making use of this “right to know”, consumers can better protect themselves from unwittingly bringing more and more toxic chemicals into their homes.

The test results show that many articles on the European market still contain SVHCs, sometimes even in very high concentrations. Compared to our previous testing rounds, producers and retailers have become more aware of SVHCs in their products, but there are still many who remain unaware and do thus not even respond to SVHC-requests.

 

The project “LIFE AskREACH” funded by the European Union has been tackling these problems since September 2017. On one hand, we have developed the smartphone app “Scan4Chem”, which can be used by consumers to scan the barcode of a product and receive SVHC information right away from our European database. If the requested information has not yet been uploaded by the responsible companies in our database, an automatically generated request can be sent to the retailer and/or producer.

 

On the other hand, we are working together with companies, helping them to better handle their supply chains, manage and answer their SVHC requests and improve their awareness on SVHCs and their SVHC policy in general.

 

We strongly recommend consumers to download the “Scan4Chem” app and to request information about all articles that interest them. The response behaviour of companies and eventually the substitution of harmful substances in consumer products will only improve, if their customers start demanding so. “Scan4Chem” makes it easy for consumers to raise their voice. After the initial setup, SVHC-requests can be sent in under a minute, directly at the stores.

 

The “Scan4Chem” app can be downloaded for iOS  and Android. Furthermore, we have developed a web-app that can be used, e.g. when shopping online.

 

In the scope of the product tests, 25 articles that have already been entered in the AskREACH database have also been analyzed, in order to verify the correctness of the data provided to consumers. Only one of these articles contained SVHCs above 0,1% by weight. The respective company has already been asked to correct the information provided.

 

If your company tries to be compliant and transparent, you can register at our AskREACH database.

 

 

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