Chemicals harmful to health

A number of chemicals harmful to human health are used in manufacturing products and remain present in the products we use. Toxic, carcinogenic, sensitizing or endocrine disrupting chemicals among others may cause adverse health effects for current and future generations.

Often there is a lack of knowledge, where particularly the so-called “cocktail effect” of combined exposure is insufficiently investigated. This prompts a substitution of harmful substances to protect human health and to secure non-toxic material streams in a circular economy.

How does the Nordic Swan Ecolabel contribute?

Requirements for the Nordic Swan Ecolabel promote substitution of hazardous chemical substances by excluding or restricting them ahead of legislation, and to a wider extent than it requires. Nordic Ecolabelling bans substances harmful to human health or heavily restricts them to the lowest possible level, depending on the level of exposure within each set of criteria.

The restrictions refers to the available legislative tools (classifications, labelling and official lists of restriction) and are based on the intrinsic harzardous properties of the substance. Consequently, the requirements are predominantly hazard-based, but a risk-based approach is sometimes applied. In some cases due to the market situation, smaller quantities of harmful substances must be accepted to achieve the overall goal: A sustainable development of products and services that have a limited impact on human health throughout their entire life cycle.

Requirements are set for the chemical substances depending on the product in question. The requirements may be specified to restrictions on:

  • Specific classifications such as acute toxicity, carcinogenic, mutagenic, toxic for reproduction and sensitizing.
  • Substances that are identified or potential endocrine disruptors.
  • “Substances of very high concern”, included on the EU Candidate List.
  • A restriction list of specified substances relevant for the set of criteria.

When some properties point to a substance being hazardous, but there is lacking or uncertain scientific evidence, Nordic Ecolabelling uses the precautionary principle. Therefore, in some cases we place a ban on entire groups of substances, for instance all per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances. In this way we avoid the risk of substituting one single banned substance with another with similar hazardous properties.

Environmental background

A large number of chemicals harmful to human health, are harmful to the environment as well. Read about chemicals harmful to the environment for more details on this topic. Furthermore, circular economy is obstructed by those harmful substances as humans are being exposed to them from recycled materials in a new use stage.