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Swedish Chemicals Agency Publishes a Report on Hazardous Substances in Consumer Goods

The next four studies which the SCA plans to undertake concern the mapping of hazardous substances in the following four areas:

  • Plastics,
  • Textiles,
  • Materials which are in contact with consumables, and
  • Products distributed via e-commerce

In addition, the SCA will look at its own product register to map out which hazardous substances are prevalent in which industries.

These studies are likely to signal future legislative action at the EU level. The Swedish Government and the SCA have in the past been active promoters of further action and harmonisation efforts at the EU level, especially under the REACH Regulation governing chemicals and their risks.

With some of these reports already published and several being compiled, the SCA is now moving towards reviewing which substances and consumer product groups would warrant further restrictions.

From the reports published to date, the study with the most relevance for Hong Kong’s exporters compared different voluntary certification schemes in Sweden across a range of consumer product groups. The study looked at which type of substances or practices the schemes covered and assessed the degree to which these were also enshrined in legal regulations.

The study covered 18 labelling or certification initiatives or organisations and a total of 2,193 unique criteria which companies had to fulfil in order to qualify for the different certification schemes. As described in the table below, voluntary restrictions with regard to the following six areas of consumer goods were investigated: buildings, furniture and paint; chemical products; cosmetic products; textiles and leather; electronic equipment; and paper, packaging and toys.

The table below shows the total number of criteria companies would have to fulfil and that were found for each type of product, and then lists the number of these which are not already restricted by law. Restrictions were divided between those applying to individual substances, and those restrictions applying to groups of substances, since there are many certifying organisations that will prohibit the use of entire groups of substances on the basis of the precautionary principle. Importantly, the study found that around 70% of all voluntary certification criteria are already covered by legal regulations:

Table: Voluntary Consumer Goods Certification Criteria by Product Category
Table: Voluntary Consumer Goods Certification Criteria by Product Category

As the table shows, textiles and leather products, followed by buildings, furniture and paint products, are the most heavily restricted. However, it is also evident that chemical products and cosmetic products have the highest incidence of voluntary rules not already covered by legislation. These areas would, therefore, be the most likely to face scrutiny over whether new binding legal restrictions should be introduced at EU level.

On the other hand, Hong Kong sellers may be relieved to know that for electronic equipment, paper, packaging and toys, virtually all voluntary certification criteria are already legally mandated and the scope for further legislative action is, therefore, more limited. This conclusion changes somewhat if the group restrictions are examined, where paper, packaging and toys have the highest incidence of group restrictions which are not yet covered by legislation. This suggests that voluntary certification schemes are more cautious in their approach when dealing with paper, packaging or toys, preferring to restrict entire groups of substances.

An additional two studies have recently been concluded but not yet published. The first focused on the mapping of hazardous substances in consumer products made from rubber and silicon, and the second looked at hazardous substances in paper and cardboard. Publication of the reports is forthcoming.

Please click on the following link for the SCA report (available only in Swedish).

Content provided by Picture: HKTDC Research
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