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 stresses the flaws of the 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 its Austrian member.

In the past years, ANEC and its Austrian member have hosted three conferences in collaboration with national and European authorities to find a way forward in achieving an adequate European regulatory framework to address hazardous chemicals in consumer products:

In recent years, 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.

The need for an EU strategy for a non-toxic environment

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. ANEC calls on the institutions 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 overdue strategy for a non-toxic environment as a crucial opportunity to fill the gaps identified in the chemical requirements for consumer articles. The European Parliament and Member States have also been calling on the European Commission to develop the strategy urgently.

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.

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. 

A REFIT exercise to assess whether the current EU legislative framework for Food Contact Materials (FCM) is fit for purpose and delivers started in 2017.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). ANEC promotes 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 to be taken as a basis in a revised DWD.

In February 2018, the EC published the Proposal for a revision of the Drinking Water Directive (‘Directive of the European Parliament and of the Council on the quality of water intended for human consumption (recast)’ 2017/0332(COD)). ANEC has been contributing in the past years to an evaluation of the directive, suggesting that the revision provides an opportunity to address chemical safety of all materials coming into contact with drinking water, from source to the tap. In light of ANEC’s contributions to the earlier consultations on the evaluation of the Drinking Water Directive (DWD) and position on the chemical safety of materials in contact with water, we prepared a position paper on the proposal of a revised DWD. We found the envisaged way forward as regards materials in contact with drinking water is inadequate and could be improved.

Further to our participation in an event on the subject organised in the European Parliament, ANEC was pleased to see our concerns outlined in MEP Dantin’s report on the proposal for a directive on the quality of water intended for human consumption. This report, approved by the European Parliament, takes into account many of our recommendations detailed here: ANEC comments on proposed amendments on the proposal for a directive on the quality of water intended for human consumption.

At the plenary session of the Parliament, MEP Dantin’s report, 'Quality of water intended for human consumption' was adopted. The report is much improved from the original proposal and in line with our suggested amendments. Parliament has entered into negotiation with the Council and the trilogue negotiations should result in the publication of an improved text for the revision of the DWD soon. ANEC follows the developments closely.

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 the requirements set in the standard(s) protect consumers.

Clothing and Textiles

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 2018, the European Commission published a proposal for a ‘restriction of CMR substances in textile articles and clothing for consumer use under REACH’ (the “textiles restriction”). ANEC and BEUC developed comments on the draft restriction. The present proposal covers only a small fraction of the harmful chemicals used in textiles. A systematic, comprehensive approach to regulate all chemicals in textiles is needed to protect consumers. We further welcomed the Commission’s use of REACH Article 68(2) - the so-called ‘simplified’ restriction procedure - to improve the protection of consumers from a group of dangerous substances. We encouraged the Commission to explore how the simplified restriction procedure could be applied to other consumer products. 

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

Tattoo inks

tattoo ink Chemicals

In recent years, 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.

ANEC was keen on the drafting of an emergency measure that was started - and abandoned - under the General Product Safety Directive as a suitable solution to tackle these products more urgently. In 2017, ECHA issued a restriction proposal to reduce the risks caused by hazardous substances contained in some tattoo inks. ANEC responded to the consultation on the proposal that was launched by ECHA.

In June 2018, ANEC issued in June 2018 its position paper on Substance in Tattoo inks and permanent make-up: Proposal for a restriction.

The scope restricts the placing on the market of certain chemicals in tattoo inks and permanent make-up. Whilst the big effort by the dossier submitters is very much appreciated, ANEC considered then that the restriction proposal not yet fit for purpose. The Committee for Socio-economic Analysis (SEAC) and the Committee for Risk Assessment (RAC) concluded to restrict hazardous substances in tattoo inks when adopting in 2019 their opinion on the restriction proposal on hazardous substances. The EC is to prepare for the final stages of the process: drafting of a decision and possible amendment of Annex XVII of REACH.

ANEC continues 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 the potential benefits nanotechnologies could offer to consumers and the environment, by improving the energy efficiency of appliances, for example. 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. Contrary to ANEC’s position, under the EC mandate, ECHA has set up an European Union Observatory for Nanomaterials (EUON) (a website listing existing information) and not a register. Earlier, ANEC supported an NGO agreement 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’.

In the absence of an EU nano-policy, the REACH Committee has voted to amend REACH Annexes to explicitly address nanoforms of substances. The specific requirements are supposed to address the knowledge gap on which substances registered under REACH are placed on the market as nanomaterials and in which quantities. ANEC is monitoring these developments through collaboration with our colleagues in the environmental NGOs and also follows the standardisation activities at European and international level with a view to react to consumer relevant issues.

3) Addressing chemicals in standards for consumer-relevant articles 

As a result of the efforts of ANEC Austrian member Consumer Council of ASI, CEN SABE carried out the project: ‘Tailored support - chemicals in product standards’. ANEC participated in its Stakeholder Panel tasked with the role of advising the Project Team.

The Project Team has drafted the CEN Guide 16 'Guide for addressing chemicals in standards for consumer-relevant articles', that aims at addressing chemicals in product standards in a consistent manner. CEN Guide 16 was published with a Background information on the Guide. A webinar (prepared by the Austrian ANEC member) is available on CEN Website with tips on how to use 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

News

ANEC wants to light debate on e-cigarettes & e-liquids

E-cigarettes are seen by the EU Scientific Committee on Health, Environmental & Emerging Risks (SCHEER) as a health and environmental issue. Unfortunately, the regulatory framework is not yet able to protect users of these products. Notably, the substance specific limits of ingredients in e-liquids or emissions are missing.

In the context of our participation in CEN TC 437 ‘E-cigarettes and e-liquids’, ANEC has published a new paper, ‘E-cigarettes and e-liquids - Limits for chemicals. Basis for discussion’. See https://bit.ly/2jYHEDy.

Our paper is intended to stimulate the debate on how to address substances in e-liquids, as well as substances formed or released during vaping. It suggests limits for 39 substances in e-liquids and for 7 in emissions. Looking ahead, we believe adopting a positive list of allowed flavours may be better than setting thresholds for many hundreds (or even thousands) of substances.

Webinar on CEN Guide 16

Those involved in standardisation of consumer-relevant articles are encouraged to read and apply CEN Guide 16 ‘Guide for addressing chemicals in standards for consumer-relevant products’.

CEN-CENELEC has published a webinar on the application of CEN Guide 16 ‘Guide for addressing chemicals in standards for consumer-relevant products’. The video, of about 15 minutes, guides the viewer through a clear summary of CEN Guide 16 and adds tips on how to use it. Franz Fiala, the Austrian member of ANEC and Chair of the ANEC Chemicals Project Team, contributed extensively to the video. He was a project leader on behalf of the VKI office of Consumer Council at ASI, and had a key role in conceiving the Guide. 

Guide

Publications

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