1 June 2018
ECHA Launches New Consumer Information Website: “Chemicals in Our Life” Which Can Also Assist Sellers of Consumer Goods
Hong Kong traders of all kinds of consumer goods, including clothing and textiles, cleaning products, electronics, plastic products, cosmetics and food should be alerted to a new website dedicated to making consumers more aware of the benefits and risks of chemicals in their everyday lives. The European Chemicals Agency (ECHA) has launched the website “chemicals in our life”, which is available in 23 EU languages.
Via this website, ECHA specifically addresses consumers with information on chemicals contained in everyday products. ECHA aims to provide useful information on the benefits and risks of using chemicals and explains how the EU legislation on chemicals protects consumers. The website is connected to ECHA’s chemicals database.
The website is designed to be user-friendly and interactive – e.g., users can take quizzes on several topics, or conduct a 360-degree virtual tour of an apartment to identify uses of nanomaterials. Users can also explore parts of the European Observatory for Nanomaterials. Several articles on nanomaterials related to health, the workplace and consumer products are available.
The website is divided into several sections: Trending, Products, Health, Environment, Work, and Hints & Tips.
The “Trending” section deals with topical news concerning chemicals which are frequently in the news, such as glyphosate, or bisphenol A, or the combined effects (oftentimes referred to as the cocktail effects) of chemicals.
The “Products” section is further subdivided into typical consumer products and provides specific information concerning each product category. Of particular interest to Hong Kong sellers will be the fact that the website covers clothing and textiles, cleaning products, electronics, plastic products, cosmetics, a specific section dedicated to hair dyes, and food.
The website recommends buying products carrying official green and toxic-free labels, such as the EU Ecolabel, and encourages consumers to make use of their right – pursuant to the REACH Regulation – to be informed, by suppliers, about chemicals contained in products. It also provides explanations on labels on chemicals and on the new hazard pictograms which warn of the damage a particular substance or mixture can cause to human health or to the environment introduced by the Classification, Labelling and Packaging (CLP) Regulation.
As a guide to choosing safer products, the website reminds consumers to pay particular attention to CE markings on products. This is the marking that manufacturers are obliged to affix on products that fall under certain safety-related legislation. The marking is a sign of guarantee from the manufacturer that those products satisfy all EU legal requirements.
The “Health” section provides an explanation on health effects which chemicals may cause, such as allergies, or diseases, particularly cancer. It also informs users about steps being taken to prevent and cure adverse effects to human health.
The “Environment” section allows users to explore effects of chemical use on the environment, particularly on aquatic life or in relation to climate change. It explains mitigating actions and environmental protection initiatives.
The “Work” section informs readers about safety precautions and exposure in a professional environment, providing advice on personal protection and chemical substitution by safer alternatives.
Lastly, the section “Hints & Tips” contains tips for consumers on where to find more detailed information on specific topics such as animal testing or EU legislation on classification and control of chemicals. It provides links to mobile apps and guides produced by consumer organisations and some national authorities that help consumers to find out what chemicals are present in certain products.
Hong Kong sellers of a wide variety of consumer products containing chemicals may like to familiarise themselves with the website, as it serves as a reminder of some relevant restrictions or requirements. For example, on the website, by clicking on the “Products” and then “textiles and clothing” hyperlinks, the reader is immediately informed that “The EU is restricting or banning many dangerous chemicals that have been used in textiles for years, for example, azo colours (found in textiles and leather products), certain dye substances (textiles and leather products), chromium VI (leather products), dimethylfumarate (DMF, used to prevent mould) or certain phthalates (textiles, plastic shoes).”
Useful information that may assist Hong Kong traders is also provided on, for example, nanomaterials, the EU’s Ecolabel, the Nordic Swan Label, and the information on hazardous substances that suppliers have to provide consumers with, should this information be requested by them, among several other topics.