Chemicals in Consumer Goods Are Seen Escaping Safety Checks

By Andrew Noël | May 21, 2019

European consumers could be at risk of exposure to hazardous chemicals in products like clothes and cosmetics because safety rules aren’t being properly enforced, according to a German environmental lobby.

Potentially harmful chemicals including dibutyl phthalate found in toys and methyl acetate used in footwear are widely sold to manufacturers of household goods without having been properly vetted, BUND said in a study published Tuesday.

“Chemical companies have been breaking the law for years and getting away with it,” Manuel Fernandez, a chemicals policy officer at BUND, said in a statement.

Chemicals in consumer items could cause a range of health problems including hormonal cancers and brain disorders, according to Fernandez. The allegations come at a time of heightened concern about the danger of some products. Germany’s Bayer AG has been ordered to pay more than $2 billion in damages to a California couple that claimed they got cancer as a result of using its Roundup weedkiller. The company is under pressure to settle thousands of similar lawsuits.

Short on Data

The BUND report is based on information dating back to 2014 obtained using freedom of information requests from the European Chemicals Agency, the region’s regulator. The study named some top global chemical makers as among the 654 companies linked to dossiers that had insufficient safety data. An industry lobby acknowledged shortfalls in some studies.

The European chemical industry underwent a regulatory overhaul in 2008 when the region introduced new safety rules under a framework called REACH. While companies initially scrambled to register and test chemicals, BUND said some haven’t completed safety reports a decade after the system was introduced. It named BASF SE, Saudi Basic Industries Corp. and Ineos among those.

The European Chemicals Agency said in an emailed statement it’s planning to increase the number of compliance checks to address the shortfall in safety data, adding that most companies provide the missing information upon request.

The quality of data in some REACH dossiers needs to be “seriously” reviewed, industry lobby group, the European Chemical Industry Council, said by email. Ineos is working with the European trade association to address issues on REACH, the company said by email.

For Germany’s BASF, meeting REACH obligations has so far cost the company about 400 million euros ($446 million). Legal requirements have been fulfilled, and the company is helping put together an improved framework, it said in a statement. Saudi Basic Industries Corp. had no immediate comment.

When the REACH program was first introduced, the testing requirements weren’t spelled out, according to Jari Rosendal, chief executive officer of Kemira Oyj, a Finnish company making chemicals to treat water.

“No one really told you how to do it,” he said. “I’m sure companies have things to improve but it’s not like anyone wants to go under the radar. Everybody is doing the best they can.”

Was this article valuable?

Here are more articles you may enjoy.