European Campaigns Promoting Safer Chemicals
Friends of the Earth England’s Campaign for Safer Chemicals
Friends of the Earth has ranked retailers according to their commitment to use safer chemicals and disclose the use of chemicals that could be potentially harmful. Their Campaign for Safer Chemicals establishes criteria on responsible retailing, which includes:
- Using official lists identify which manmade chemicals are suspected of bioaccumulation (building up in people’s bodies), or interfering with the hormone, immune, or nervous systems.
- Produce a strategy to identify which — of its own-brand and branded products, including fruit and vegetables — contain these chemicals.
- Produce a timeline to phase out these chemicals from its own-brand products, with the aim of eliminating them in five years, starting with those chemicals which pose the greatest threat.
- Put pressure on manufacturers of branded products to do the same.
- Report publicly on progress on an annual basis.
By holding retailers accountable for the environmental and social impacts of the products they sell, the Campaign for Safer Chemicals is building market demand and support for safer chemicals. Visit the Friends of the Earth website for a ranking of responsible retailers and more information about their campaign.
Swedish Society for Nature Conservation’s Campaign to Promote Safer Alternatives to Brominated Flame Retardants (BFRs)
The Swedish Society for Nature Conservation has launched a campaign to replace brominated flame retardants, a toxic class of chemicals used for fireproofing in many products, such as electronic equipment, furniture, and car seats, with safer alternatives.
Many companies, such as IKEA and Siemens, have already responded to the health warnings about BFRs, which are building up in women’s breast milk, by finding safer substitutes that still provide a fireproofing function.
Visit the Swedish Society for Nature Conservation website for more information about their BFR campaign.
Greenpeace UK and Greenpeace Netherlands’ Household Dust Campaign
Greenpeace has launched a campaign in Europe using dust samples to determine what chemicals are migrating out of household and office products into the air, then settling onto the floor, carpets, and upholstery. Already, the campaign has illustrated that we are exposed daily to a mix of chemicals, not only in our food, but in our homes and offices. Their dust analysis reveals the presence of a wide range of halogenated organic compounds, which exhibit properties of being carcinogenic, mutagenic, reproductive toxins, persistent, bioaccummulative, and in most cases toxic.
So Where Do These Chemicals Come From?
The source of contamination is from furnishings, carpets, sofas, wallpaper, PVC floors, computer hardware, televisions, and clothing. In particular, PVC flooring contains tributyl tin, brominated flame retardants (BFRs), and phthalates. Organotins are used as PVC stabilizers and found in cables and floors and wallpaper. Tributyltin (TBT) is often used as a bactericide, and thus found in textiles, carpets, linen products, and clothing. Chlorinated paraffins are used widely in plastics, and some paints. BFRs are used in textiles and electronic equipment.
This problem has been of increasing concern to many people in recent years and now it seems that the European Commission has responded to this rising concern by proposing a new system of chemicals regulation in Europe called REACH. Please see the Reforming Chemical Markets section for more information on REACH.
Greenpeace UK’s Chemical Kitchen Campaign
Greenpeace UK is working to establish a greater awareness to the toxic chemicals in kitchen products that cause harmful pollution by building up in the environment and even in our own bodies. Their website houses a comprehensive guide that rates brand name products according to their toxicity levels. For every product that contains longlasting toxic chemicals, you can click on “Take Action” and find out how to get manufacturers to change their ways. It is also provides consumers with brand name products that do not contain longlived toxins, but perform equally as well as the toxic alternatives.
For more information on Greenpeace UK’s Household Dust and Chemical Kitchen Campaigns, please visit Greenpeace UK’s website and click on campaigns, then toxics.