BEUC Demands Action After Finding Harmful Chemicals are ‘Ubiquitous’ in Everyday Consumer Products
The European Consumer organisation, BEUC, has published a new report which concludes that harmful chemicals are ubiquitous in everyday consumer products, but that safer options are available.
The report ‘Ubiquitous but Preventable: Harmful Chemicals in Everyday Consumer Products’ provides an overview of chemical testing on consumer products carried out by consumer organisations in Europe from 2017 to 2023. BEUC’s analysis revealed three primary areas of concern: 1) the use of PFAS ‘forever chemicals’; 2) children’s products containing chemicals of concern; 3) the presence of potentially hazardous chemicals in products sold on online marketplaces.
PFAS are a family of over 10,000 chemicals often referred to as ‘forever chemicals’ due to their extreme persistence and inability to break down in the environment. They are widely used in everyday consumer products due to their water and grease-proof properties.
Studies from the review found PFAS present in products such as fast-food packaging, waffle irons, face creams, dental floss, jackets and waterproofing sprays. PFAS-free alternatives were also found for each of these product categories, demonstrating that safer alternatives are available.
Other studies reviewed in the report found potentially harmful chemicals in children’s products such as strollers, rubber boots, sippy cups, toys, and snowsuits. BEUC highlights that these findings are particularly concerning because children have an increased susceptibility to adverse health effects from chemicals, partly due to the potential impacts on their development. The EU has a specific set of regulations that restrict chemicals in products for children, but the report emphasises that these are currently insufficient to provide full protection.
BEUC’s report highlights that online products pose regulatory challenges due to the complexity of quality control and safety measures, stemming from a wide range of sellers across various countries with differing chemical regulations.
The report also emphasises that hazardous chemicals, such as heavy metals, persistent chemicals and suspected endocrine disruptors been found in products sold online from cheap jewellery to cosmetics. Some of the products contained substances illegal or restricted in the EU.
BEUC states that there is currently a regulatory gap that “leaves consumers vulnerable to chemical exposures and undermines their trust in the safety of products on the market”.
However, a significant finding of their review is that there are many products available that do not contain harmful chemicals, demonstrating that it is possible to find safer alternatives and that regulations could be effective in achieving timely action.
The report recommends that governments introduce regulations that: ensure the phase out of all harmful chemicals from consumer products; strengthen controls for products sold online; and require transparent labelling declaring the chemical content of products.
Alongside NGO colleagues, CHEM Trust is calling on the EU authorities and the UK government to protect people and nature from harmful chemicals by introducing robust legislation to phase out the most harmful chemicals from consumer products by 2030.