What is the problem?

In everyday life, we are surrounded by potentially harmful chemicals contained in consumer products. Many of them are used as additives in plastics, e.g. flame retardants in furniture and car seats, plasticisers in toys or PVC floorings, or bisphenol A in tin cans.

These harmful substances are released into the environment and find their way into our bodies by food, through skin contact, or via the air we breathe. They may be carcinogenic, alter our genetic constitution, or impair fertility. Others can imitate or block natural hormones and are suspected of contributing to diseases like breast and testicular cancer, obesity, diabetes, or learning and behavioural disorders in children. Persistent chemicals are a special problem for the environment, because they can accumulate over time to harmful levels.

In order to progressively replace the substances of concern with less dangerous substances, the European Chemicals Agency (ECHA) defined substances of very high concern (SVHC) as substances with the following hazard properties:

  • Substances meeting the criteria for classification as carcinogenic, mutagenic or toxic for reproduction (CMR) category 1A or 1B;
  • Substances which are persistent, bioaccumulative and toxic (PBT) or very persistent and very bioaccumulative (vPvB);
  • Substances that cause an equivalent level of concern as CMR or PBT/vPvB substances.

Tips to avoid harmful substances in consumer products and reduce indoor exposure

  1. Use the App Scan4Chem in your daily shopping
  2. Give preference to eco-labeled products
  3. Avoid plastic packaging wherever possible
  4. Avoid products made of soft PVC, strong smelling articles, and cheapies made of dark recycled plastic
  5. Don’t heat food in plastic containers–use microwaveproof glass or porcelain
  6. Avoid PVC flooring and vinyl wallpaper, use linoleum, cork or wooden floor
  7. Avoid complete redecoration of newborn rooms
  8. Don’t buy clothes with declared chemical finishing