A glimmer of hope to protect consumers from fluorinated substances
Last week, BEUC contributed test data from our member organisations to support the German environment agency’s plans to restrict some harmful fluorinated substances. The test results show the presence of those chemicals in many consumer goods.
Fluorinated substances are industrial chemicals used in hundreds of consumer products. They make your raincoats waterproof, your food packaging grease-repellent and are even used in some cosmetics. The problem is they linger in the environment and are for instance found in everyone’s bloodstream. Their suspected impact on our health ranges from an increased risk of miscarriage to a negative influence on the immune system.
Practically speaking, the German agency intends to submit a restriction to the EU’s REACH Regulation on some fluorinated substances. Once the Commission and Member States greenlight the restriction, it would apply across the EU and hence benefit all European consumers. This is good news given the lack of action to tackle these problematic chemicals.
The EU has already banned some of these substances, such as PFOA, a chemical used in the past to make Teflon (the material used to make cookware not sticky).
Forbrukerradet Taenk, a consumer group in Denmark, found the problematic fluorinated substances in:
- One third of fast food packaging contained high levels;
- Nearly half of waterproofing sprays (for shoes, jackets);
- More than 50 creams, mascaras and shaving foams;
- 8 out of 11 winter gloves for children
Forbrukerrådet, a Norwegian consumer group, found harmful substances in all the six children's jackets they tested.
Before any new law restricts the use of fluorinated substances, BEUC calls on manufacturers to use non-fluorinated alternatives, which do exist. In half of the food packages the Danish consumer group tested together with other organisations, there were no signs of fluorinated substances. When there’s a will, there’s a way.
BEUC blog “Fluorinated substances: the best packaging for your fast food?”, March 2017
BEUC letter to EU Parliament: “New test by European consumer organisations finds toxic substances in fast food packaging”, February 2017
 The restriction must be approved by qualified majority, i.e. 55% of Member States, representing 65% of the EU population. More info about how restrictions work: https://echa.europa.eu/support/restriction
 The other organisations are Altroconsumo (Italy), DECO (Portugal), OCU (Spain), and Test-Achats/Test-Aankoop (Belgium).