Chemicals are all around us: in clothes, food, cosmetics, furniture and more. Unfortunately, not all of them are safe. ANEC, among other consumer organisations, has long been concerned about the use of hazardous chemicals in consumer products and calls for stricter chemical requirements in product legislation and standards. Nonetheless, hundreds of chemicals that are potentially dangerous to health and the environment can still be found in many consumer products today.

Accordingly, ANEC wants to achieve a high level of protection for consumers and the environment against exposure to hazardous chemicals in products.

We have stressed the importance of a ban on such chemicals or, if this is not possible, for strict limits for chemicals in products to be set by legislators (and not delegated to the standardisers). In particular, ANEC notes the flaws of current EU regulation in dealing with hazardous chemicals.

Work Areas:

1) Filling the gaps in European regulatory provisions

The present European regulatory provisions for chemicals in (consumer) products do not go far enough. They are either inadequate or incomplete:

  • Inadequate because of serious gaps - as in food contact materials where only plastic materials are comprehensively regulated; or in the absence of clear limits (medical devices), or lack of a high level of protection (toys);
  • (almost) non-existent for many everyday products, such as clothing, furniture, floor coverings, personal protective equipment, child care articles, sports equipment, construction products, and car interiors.

Our position paper “Hazardous chemicals in products - The need for enhanced EU regulations” suggests a roadmap to achieving a comprehensive strategy to address chemicals in products. It explores how current regulatory requirements can be enhanced and outlines a programme for key consumer product areas. In addition, the paper lists other product areas for investigation as a second priority. A summary of the paper is also available. ANEC developed its standpoint asking for the development of a European regulatory framework for chemicals in products, following its longstanding activity in the area and the findings of high consumer concern resulting from three studies of the ASI Consumer Council.

During recent years, ANEC and the ASI Consumer Council have organised three joint conferences in collaboration with national and European authorities to identify the way forward in specific areas to achieve an adequate European regulatory framework to address hazardous chemicals in consumer products:

ANEC became an accredited stakeholder organisation of the European Chemicals Agency since 2015.

In 2016, the European Commission launched a regulatory “fitness check” in order to evaluate the (non-REACH) legislative framework for chemicals, in particular the CLP (Classification & Labelling of Products) Regulation and other legislation. ANEC responded to several questionnaires and, in the ANEC-BEUC Position Paper: Regulatory fitness check of Chemicals legislation except REACH - A consumer view, we highlighted the risk that this “fitness check” exercise could be used as a pretext to eliminate important legislative provisions which exist to protect consumers, workers and the environment from hazardous chemicals.

7th Environmental Action Programme

ANEC applauded the 7th Environmental Action Programme to 2020 (7EAP) for its recognition of the need to assess and minimise “risks for the environment and health, in particular in relation to children, associated with the use of hazardous substances, including chemicals in products” by 2020. As advocated by ANEC and BEUC, the EU institutions identified chemicals in products as an action point for the 7EAP. This ambitious approach is in line with our call for the 7EAP to focus on the interrelation of environmental and health concerns, highlighting the need for a community approach to address chemicals in consumer products in a consistent and systematic manner.

We see the planned strategy for a non-toxic environment as a crucial opportunity to fill the gaps identified in the chemical requirements for consumer articles.

2) Consumer articles with highest priority

Materials in contact with food

Chemical requirements in the Food Contact Materials Regulation (EC) No 1935/2004 are inadequate because only plastics materials are comprehensively regulated, and there are significant gaps related to colorants, solvents and printing inks. Our 2014 position paper 'Hazardous chemicals in products - The need for enhanced EU regulations' defines a strategy to overcome deficits in legislation with respect to chemical safety requirements in FCM – Food Contact Materials.

ANEC calls on the implementing measure on ceramics (Council Directive 84/500) to be updated as quickly as possible with the aim of reducing the limits for cadmium and lead released and incorporating further elements. A list of priority materials for regulation needs to be established and implementing measures developed.

In line with ANEC’s demands, the European Parliament adopted a resolution on food contact materials and how to ensure food safety alongside technical innovation. Given the prevalence of FCMs on the EU market, and the risk posed to human health, the EP asks the EC to prioritise the drawing up of specific measures for paper and board, varnishes and coatings, metals and alloys, printing inks and adhesives. It also asks for a ban on Bisphenol A and a coherent regulatory approach on CMR substances and other substances of concern. ANEC applauds the EP report as its essence, and several key conclusions, are in line with our Position paper on Food Contact Materials Regulation (Regulation (EC) No 1935/2004) as contribution to the EP Report. The European Commission is now expected to take further action.

Materials in contact with drinking water

Water Chemicals

In ANEC’s view, a regulatory framework needs to be established to set requirements for all materials in contact with drinking water, covering the full water supply chain from the source  to  the water tap and all parameters which may affect the drinking water quality. One of the means proposed in ANEC’s strategy is modifying the existing Drinking Water Directive (DWD, 98/83/EC).

In line with ANEC’s position on how to achieve safer materials in contact with drinking water, ANEC has contributed to EC activities in the Drinking Water Directive 98/83/EC (DWD) evaluation. Despite the initial general agreement from stakeholders on the need to revise and update certain aspects of the directive related to human health and environment pollution, the evaluation conclusions did not seem to envisage the needed revision.

ANEC will closely follow the subsequent phase 2 of the evaluation i.e. the Impact Assessment, which is intended to analyse the detailed health, environmental, social and economic impacts of the major policy options selected by the European Commission. By doing so, ANEC continues its promotion of the "European acceptance scheme for construction products in contact with drinking water (EAS)", and the subsequent work done for harmonisation by a group of Members States is to be taken as a basis in a revised DWD or in a standalone regulatory document.

Indoor air emissions

ANEC also notes the need for a new regulatory framework to be established to set harmonized performance requirements for all products and materials that can release substances to the indoor air (construction products, such as floor coverings, paints, coatings, wall coverings, adhesives; home textiles; printers; cleaning agents; air fresheners, etc.).

In light of its position, ANEC has also participated in standardisation work on candle emissions. We also participate in CEN/TC 436 ‘Cabin Air Quality on commercial aircraft – Chemical Agents' and CEN/TC 437 ‘Electronic cigarettes and e-liquids’ to ensure that the requirements set in the standard(s) protect consumers from exposure to hazardous chemicals and help balance the stakeholder representation in the TC.

Clothing and Textiles

Clothing and other textiles with which consumers come into contact are covered by the General Product Safety Directive. However, the directive does not allow the stipulation of limits for chemicals. ANEC thus calls for a new regulatory measure for textiles based on generic substance exclusions with hazard-classes defined in certain existing legislation, as well as substance specific and other provisions.

In 2016, in the framework of the ANEC strategy on 'Hazardous chemicals in products - The need for enhanced EU regulations', ANEC collaborated with BEUC on a joint contribution to the European Commission public consultation on a possible restriction of hazardous substances (CMR 1A and 1B) in textile articles and clothing for consumer use under Article 68(2) of Regulation EC No 1907/2006 (REACH). The Commission intends to use REACH Art. 68(2) to target specific categories of consumer articles. The ANEC/BEUC position paper ‘Protecting consumers from hazardous chemicals in textiles’ highlighted that article 68(2) cannot cover all hazardous substances and there is a need for product specific legislation to address all substances of very high concern. Unfortunately, the Commission confirmed the initial intention for the way ahead.

ANEC continues its collaboration with BEUC on policy developments in this area.

Tattoo inks

tattoo ink Chemicals

Since 2010, Member States have submitted more than 100 notifications to RAPEX (Rapid Alert System for non-food dangerous products) on dangerous tattoo products posing severe risks to consumers. Tattoo inks can contain several hazardous chemicals, including substances that are carcinogenic, mutagenic or toxic for reproduction (CMR), or are skin sensitizers.

Up to 20% of the European population has at least one tattoo. The proportion with tattoos in the age range 20 to 40 years is even higher, and the trend is upwards. This means at least 50 million people in Europe are exposed to risk. ANEC has addressed the safety of tattoo inks in its position paper defining a strategy to tackle hazardous chemicals in consumer products, and in a series of events held in collaboration with national authorities.

Unfortunately, there seems to be the intention to deal with the chemical safety of tattoos only within REACH. This option was initially dismissed by the European Commission, and this rejection was supported by ANEC. We still believe the drafting of an emergency measure that was started - and abandoned - under the General Product Safety Directive a more suitable solution to tackle these products more urgently. ANEC will continue contributing to the discussion on the safety of tattoo products.

Chemical requirements in toys

To know more about ANEC activities to improve chemical requirements for toys please visit the subpage on Child Safety.

Nanotechnologies - Small is beautiful but is it safe?

Molecule nano

ANEC acknowledges that nanotechnologies have a potential to offer benefits to consumers and the environment. For example, they could improve energy efficiency of appliances. However, these technologies and materials may also present new risks which have not been evaluated. We are therefore concerned about the increasing number of products containing nanomaterials that are already sold on the EU market without having been subject to a proper safety assessment. Adequate safety and risk assessment methodologies should be developed, taking into account all characteristics of nanomaterials. We also call for clear definitions of nanomaterials and nanotechnologies to be adopted, as the lack of definitions leads to legal uncertainties and hampers the development of regulatory requirements, and for the precautionary principle to be applied.

It is of paramount importance that existing and new European legislation relevant to nanotechnologies is adapted and developed in order to safeguard consumer health and safety, as well as the environment. Legislation should set safety requirements (e.g. limit values for certain nanomaterials in products), with standardisation used to establish test methods and other technical specifications. Increased transparency about the use of nanomaterials and labelling of consumer products containing nanomaterials is also needed.

The Commission has recognised the need to better monitor the presence of nanomaterials in the European market. An impact assessment has been carried out on possible policy options to enhance transparency and consumer information. ANEC and BEUC, together with several civil society organisations, have been calling for the creation of a mandatory reporting scheme for nanomaterials, including those used in consumer products, and an inventory of all nanomaterials based on the ANEC/BEUC inventory from 2010 and nano-silver specific one of 2012.

Unfortunately, further to its impact assessment, the EC announced in March 2016 that its preferred option was a ‘European nano-observatory’ (a website listing existing information) and not a register. ECHA has been requested to develop the observatory by 2018.

3) CEN SABE project

As a result of the efforts of the ASI Consumer Council, CEN SABE received Commission funding for a project to address chemicals in product standards in a consistent manner: ‘Tailored support - chemicals in product standards’. The project started in 2015 and ANEC nominated a representative to its Steering Group.

The project includes three key activities:

  • The creation and management of a multi-stakeholder panel of experts responsible for advising the project team;
  • The development of a Guide that includes practical recommendations to standardisers on how to include requirements related to chemicals in product standards;
  • The development of a strategy for the promotion and implementation of the Guide.

Activities in the European & international standards bodies

Further to participation in CEN Technical Committees where work is being done on hazardous substances in standards, ANEC participates in the following:

  • CEN TC 352 WG 2 'Nanotechnologies-Commercial and other stakeholder aspects'
  • ISO TC 229 'Nanotechnologies'
  • CEN SABE Project Team on Tailored support on Chemicals in standardisation
  • CEN TC 436 PC 'Cabin Air Quality on commercial aircraft – Chemical Agents'
  • CEN TC 437 'Electronic cigarettes and e-liquids' 
  • CEN TC 437 WG 3 'Requirements and test methods for e-liquids'
  • CEN TC 437 WG 4 'Requirements and test methods for emissions'

ANEC is also a member of:

  • ECHA-NGO Discussion Platform
  • European Commission Consumer Safety Network Subgroup on tattoo inks
  • Transatlantic Consumer Dialogue TACD Product Safety and Chemicals Committee


Controversial European nano-observatory

NGOs Nanos

ECHA launched the EU Observatory for Nanomaterials (EUON) via a dedicated website on 14 June 2017. The website aims at describing what nanomaterials are and where they are used today. It is also intended to provide information about safety and health issues, research, regulation, and international activities.

Organisations for the protection of consumers, environment and health believe EUON does not meet their long-standing wish for European nano-register.

ANEC supported an NGO agreement earlier to step back from EUON. The demands of civil society are detailed in the paper, ‘Reset Governance: Nanomaterials as a case study on negligence NGO demands for adequate EU governance of nanomaterials’.

Keeping hazards in the circle?

downward spiral with glass ball inside reflecting topsy turvy world garden As part of the Circular Economy Action Plan, the EC committed to analyse the interfaces among chemicals, products and waste legislation and recommend policy options. In this context, ANEC contributed in mid-2017 to a targeted consultation with a new position paper entitled ‘Keeping hazards in the circle?’ – input to EC communication on interfaces among chemicals, products and waste legislation.
We believe that, for a circular economy approach to be effective, there needs to be a stronger focus on reuse and reduction in the consumption of materials and creation of waste. Recycling must be part of a greater concept of resource saving that leads to high quality products that do not expose the consumer or the environment to detrimental effects. Part of this includes ensuring that hazardous substances are eliminated from the beginning of the product cycle.

ANEC recommends that legal provisions for chemicals in virgin materials be strengthened by implementing sectoral product legislation. Also, specific provisions should be developed to facilitate recycling aimed at reducing the variety of materials, including their chemical composition, to make them "fit for recycling". However, present European regulatory provisions for chemicals in products do not go far enough. The development of a European regulatory framework for chemicals in products needs to occur urgently. An area which needs further regulation is on the presence of substances of concern in recycled materials. ANEC recommends that substances that are present in recovered materials should not be treated differently from substances contained in virgin materials.

Developing further regulation and frameworks is made difficult by a lack of information about substances of concern in products and waste. Therefore, regulatory measures and sectoral product legislation that contain information provisions need to be significantly strengthened. Part of this is the elimination of SVHCs and other substances of concern from materials and products, as well as the enhancement of substance specific restrictions. It is also necessary to improve end-of-waste criteria including chemical provisions (restrictions as well as monitoring obligations).

A real commitment to reduce material and energy flows and to develop a strategy to address chemicals in consumer products is crucial to achieve a non-toxic environment for Europe.

New CEN Guide 16 for addressing chemicals in standards for consumer-relevant products

CEN Guide 16 is a guide to aid the drafters of standards address chemicals in product standards. The guide, together with related background documents, was published in July 2017, and is titled ‘Guide for addressing chemicals in standards for consumer-relevant products’. It aims to support the EU objectives to minimise the health and environmental impact of chemicals.

Started and led by an ANEC member, the guide is the outcome of a project that brought together public authorities, industry, environmental organisations, trade unions, research institutes/laboratories; European Commission and the European Chemicals Agency (ECHA). ANEC represented consumers in the Stakeholder Panel and contributed to the project deliverables.

The guide includes a framework and recommendations for requirements on chemicals which must be considered when developing standards for consumer-relevant articles. The background documents contain information on regulatory provisions for chemical substances and for specific articles. It also lists related standards. Information on hazardous chemicals is also provided for voluntary instruments, and policy developments in the EU and some Member States.

CEN Guide 16 is planned to be used by anyone involved in drafting standards for consumer-relevant products with the objective of minimizing exposure to harmful chemicals. Not all standards writers have expertise in chemistry and (eco) toxicology but, by using this Guide, they will be able to:

  • Understand basic principles that need to be considered when thinking about incorporating provisions on chemicals;
  • Understand the regulatory and political context;
  • Assess the relevance of existing information sources with respect to a particular group of articles;
  • Identify experienced chemistry and (eco) toxicology experts;
  • Include relevant provisions on chemicals in standards where appropriate.

ANEC, particularly its Sustainability Project Team on Chemicals, has been active in the area of chemicals in product standards. It provided several comments in both the development of the guide, background documents and annexes.

ANEC will promote the use of Guide 16 and supported adoption of a strategy to implement Guide 16 in September 2017.


To access position papers related to Chemicals please click the link, Position papers.