European consumer fears grow over chemicals– trade group

Author: Tom Brown

2021/04/28

LONDON (ICIS)--There is “significant” concern among consumers in Europe about exposure to chemicals, a health and safety representative with the European Bureau of Consumer Unions said on Wednesday.

Latest data show fears over hazards in consumer products rising dramatically in recent years. Around four in five respondents of a consumer survey carried out by the organisation before the onset of the pandemic reported concerns about chemicals in every day products, compared to 43% in the same survey in 2014, according to Pelle Moos, team leader for safety and health at BEUC

The years since 2014 have seen a substantial rise in media coverage of plastic waste in oceans, of microplastics in bottled water and re-usable baby bottles.

Public and government backlash over plastic pollution has been a key driver in the rise of the circular economy as the potential future of plastics production and consumption, with regulators in several countries threatening to ban certain uses for disposable plastics.

The prospect of hazardous or controlled chemicals in children’s toys remains a key concern, Moos said, and an investigation by the organisation’s Danish arm found controlled chemicals in 21% of around 500 toys checked, including endocrine disruptors.

A survey by a Swedish affiliate of BEUC found that 90% of consumers in the country want more information on the chemicals used in products they buy, according to Moos, with the European Chemicals Strategy for Sustainability (CSS) potentially mandating greater transparency in product labelling.

A proposed approach to that would be allowed consumers to scan products to see the information, but this risks putting the information out of reach of some citizens, according to Moos.

“It’s a step but we also need to make sure the info is available to consumers in an easily accessible format,” he said, speaking at the Helsinki Chemicals Forum.

The challenge is also to present complex information on chemical properties in a way that is comprehensible to consumers and places the risks in context, according to  Mirva Kipinoinen, director of communications at Finnish chemicals safety organisation Tukes.

“This is a communication challenge linked to previous challenges that how can we communicate these complex risks, safely, so that people understand them,” he said, also speaking at the forum

EU consumer ‘right to know’ laws mandating corporate disclosure of information to public enquiries about chemicals, Moos added, claiming that 70% of companies provide partial or incorrect information to consumer enquiries.

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