Chemical substances in...
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Chemical substances in articles

All articles contain chemical substances. These are contained in the materials and components the articles are made from. Chemical substances can also be included to add particular functions to the article. This may be done, for example, to make a plastic soft, a textile less flammable or to make a metal surface shiny.


When a chemical substance is present in an article, it may, under certain circumstances, be released from the article, for example during the actual manufacturing of the article, when it is used or when the article becomes waste.

If the chemical substance released from an article has properties that are harmful to health and the environment, it may cause adverse effects to human health and the environ­ment. Examples of chemical substances that can be dispersed from articles and have adverse effects are plasticising phthalates, certain flame retardants, formaldehyde, perfluorinated substances and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs).

There are rules to be followed

There are specified rules for chemical substances and products stating that information on risk and protection must be supplied to all who use the product. The information must be presented in the form of package labelling. Professional users additionally have to receive a safety data sheet containing more detailed information. On the other hand, when chemical substances are contained in an article, a material or a component, there are no equivalent requirements for information.

The rules applicable to articles are not as extensive as the rules on chemical substances. But rules on general caution also cover articles. Under these rules all operators have to take the precautions needed to prevent harm to human health or the environment.

There are also rules limiting the use of specific chemical substances in specific articles. Some examples of such rules are the release of nickel from jewellery, the use of azo dyes in textiles and the release of formaldehyde from particleboard.

As well as the specific rules on chemicals, the Product Safety Act (2004:451) is applicable. Under this Act, only consumer products safe from the point of view of health may be placed on the market. For further information on the Product Safety Act, contact the Swedish Consumer Agency.

The Swedish Chemicals Agency has been working for many years to highlight the article-related perspective with regard to risks with chemicals. In its report Information on the content of hazardous chemical substances in articles (KemI report 6/04), KemI describes how a system of health and environmental information could be designed.

In the EU chemicals legislation, REACH, the requirements are not as far-reaching for chemical substances in articles as for the pure chemical substances. Sweden has been actively pressing for the requirements in the regulation also to cover chemical substances in articles.

Companies are responsible

There is generally a low level of knowledge of the content of chemicals in articles, how the chemicals are dispersed and what effects the chemicals may have on human health and the environment.

Many companies that manufacture, import and sell products need to take greater responsibility for their products. It is the companies, which place articles on the market, that are responsible for ensuring that they are not harmful to human health or the environment. Companies need  actively to gather knowledge, exercise caution, phase out hazardous substances and continuously reduce the risks.

Created
2011-08-11

Chemical substances in articles


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All articles contain chemical substances. These are contained in the materials and components the articles are made from. Chemical substances can also be included to add particular functions to the article. This may be done, for example, to make a plastic soft, a textile less flammable or to make a metal surface shiny.

Ask questions in shops. Be suspicious of articles that smell strongly of chemicals. Although it is not common, it happens that some articles cause allergies or other hypersensitivity reactions. In the event of such problems occurring, inform the company where the article was purchased.

Municipal consumer advisors, the Swedish Consumer Agency and the consumer organisations can also provide information.

 

Work consciously on chemical issues. Check the chemical content, for example, of shoes,  establish require­ments to be met by suppliers and carry out random checks. Replace products that contain hazardous substances.