In almost half of the analysed plastic articles such as handbags, wallets, pencil boxes and cases for mobile phones two substances that are very hazardous to health and the environment were found by the Swedish Chemicals Agency. One group, short-chain chlorinated paraffins, are prohibited.
We had tests made of 62 articles to see if they contained banned short-chain chlorinated paraffins (SCCP), certain phthalates and lead salts. These substances are included on the European Chemicals Agency (ECHA) list of particularly hazardous substances, the so-called Candidate List.
Results of the analyses
Short-chain chlorinated paraffins
16 articles contained short-chain chlorinated paraffins in high concentrations. 11 items contained short-chain chlorinated paraffins in such (low) concentrations that the articles could possibly have become contaminated with the substance during the manufacturing or delivery process. Chlorinated paraffins are used to make soft plastics and the substances are particularly hazardous to the environment as they remain there very long. Short-chain chlorinated paraffins are prohibited under the POPs Regulation.
The phthalate DEHP
For some products, several parts were analysed. A total of 66 analyses were made and the phthalate DEHP was found in high concentrations in 32 analysed parts. DEHP is an endocrine disruptor and may impair fertility. It is not prohibited to use phthalates in products which are not intended for children, but it is possible that young children would suck on other articles and thereby be exposed.
Companies must know what their products contain
– The companies are responsible for ensuring that their products do not contain hazardous substances and many companies are currently working actively to find out what their products contain. In our study, 26 percent of the analysed articles were prohibited to sell, so there are still companies who are not aware that the knowledge requirement is on them, says Camilla Westlund, inspector at the Swedish Chemicals Agency.
We have informed all concerned companies that the check has been made and of the results of the analyses. They have also received information about applicable rules. The companies have stopped selling the articles containing short-chain chlorinated paraffins. The Swedish Chemicals Agency will be making a complaint to the environmental prosecutor.
Ask when you are in the shop
The Swedish Chemicals Agency advises consumers who are anxious, to ask in the shop if the product contains a substance on the candidate list. The consumer has the right to receive a response within 45 days.
The completed study project is part of the Swedish Chemicals Agency's work on the action plan for a toxic-free everyday environment.
Facts about the substances and applicable rules
Short-chain chlorinated paraffins
Chlorinated paraffins are chlorinated hydrocarbons, very often used as plasticisers and flame retardants in plastics. Short-chain chlorinated paraffins are prohibited by the European Parliament and Council Regulation (EC) No 850/2004 on persistent organic pollutants (POPs) because they are harmful to aquatic organisms and very persistent and they will not degrade in the natural environment.
Phthalates is the name of a group of chemical substances that are based on phthalic acid. Phthalates are sometimes used as softeners in plastics and problems can arise when they are released and absorbed by the body. Several phthalates have been shown to have endocrine-disrupting effects in humans. Some phthalates, including diethylhexyl phthalate (DEHP), dibutyl phthalate (DBP) and benzyl butyl phthalate (BBP) are classified by the EU as hazardous (toxic to reproduction, category 2).
DEHP, DBP and BBP are prohibited in toys and childcare articles if the concentration exceeds 0.1 percent. The phthalates DINP, DIDP and DNOP are prohibited for use in toys and childcare articles which can be placed in the mouth if the concentration exceeds 0.1 percent. These rules are contained in the REACH Regulation (EC) No 1907/2006, Annex XVII, points 51 and 52.
The phthalates DEHP, DBP, BBP and DIBP (diisobutyl phthalate) and some other phthalates are listed on the REACH candidate list, which may necessitate providing information to professional users and consumers.
Some lead compounds are used as stabilisers in PVC and some of these are included on the candidate list. Exposure to lead can damage the nervous system and impair intellectual development and performance. Fetuses and young children are especially susceptible. Other effects of lead exposure are high blood pressure and increased incidence of cardiovascular disease in adults.