Evidence mounts of toxic substances in everyday products as experts warn of loopholes in EU law on chemicals and recycling.
A wide range of products made from recycled materials in Europe may contain dangerous chemicals, NGOs have warned recently. This week a new study points the finger at the carpet industry.
The research by the Changing Markets Foundation has found toxic chemicals in carpets sold on the European market. These include suspected carcinogens and endocrine disruptors, which are a leading cause of falling human fertility and rising rates of childhood cancers, among other diseases.
Among them were halogenated flame retardants. These chemicals are strictly regulated under the Toys Safety Directive, but they are permitted in carpets tested for the report.
The tests also found the presence of phthalate DEHP, which is an endocrine disruptor that has been banned in the EU since 2015 but is still allowed in recycled plastic.
The findings shed a light on the real-life impacts these loopholes can have on vulnerable groups such as babies and small children. Génon Jensen of Health and Environment Alliance (HEAL), which helped launch the report, said:
“These results are yet another confirmation that EU law is leaving loopholes for toxic materials to be recycled into our everyday products.”
EU officials should restrict recyclers from trading in waste containing chemicals banned in virgin materials, the NGOs said.
Last week, another report found brominated flame retardants in children’s toys and consumer goods made from recycled plastics. These flame retardants are known to disrupt thyroid function and cause neurological and attention deficits in children.
The authors of the study urged the EU to ensure that consumer products are free of hazardous substance to protect people’s health and avoid the contamination of recycled content.
They also called for a legally binding information system for hazardous substances, so that manufacturers and recyclers are made aware of what’s in the products and materials they deal with.
“No one would knowingly give children toxic waste to play with,” said Jensen. “The EU currently allows exemptions so that some of the most hazardous materials in plastics can be recycled.”
The environment committee in the European Parliament has recently recognised the need to bring closer together waste management and chemical laws. The European Commission has launched a public consultation to gather information on how to improve recycling and guarantee safety standards.
Meanwhile, reports of poor enforcement of existing chemicals regulation which is supposed to keep track of chemicals in consumer products known as REACH has sparked an outcry recently.
German risk assessment authorities have recently found that almost two-thirds of chemicals used in produced or imported into Europe do not comply with the EU’s chemicals regulation designed to protect the environment and public health.
Chemical companies are breaking the law by failing to report to the European Chemicals Agency whether their substances can harm people and by marketing hundreds of potentially dangerous substances, the European Environmental Bureau said last week.