Chemicals harmful to the environment

The demand for and use of chemical substances is increasing every day. As a result, chemical pollution is impacting and amplifying major environmental problems like degradation of ecosystems and a loss of biodiversity.

The negative effects of these chemicals can be lessened by reducing the consumption in general and by substituting to chemical substances with a low impact on the environment.

Therefore, it is important to consider the complete lifecycle of a product or service, including raw materials, manufacturing, use and waste/recycling, with the aim to remove harmful substances completely from the material streams.

How does the Nordic Swan Ecolabel contribute?

The Nordic Ecolabelling requirements promote substitution of hazardous chemical substances by excluding or restricting them ahead of legislation and to a wider extent than the legislation requires. Environmentally harmful substances are banned or heavily restricted to the lowest possible level, depending on the prevailing circumstances within each product group.

The restrictions are evaluated and prioritized to achieve the highest possible benefit for the environment, always considering the intrinsic hazardous properties of the substance. All available legislative tools are used (classifications, labelling and official lists of restriction) from a precautionary principle.

However, 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 environmental impact throughout their entire life cycle and on environmental parameters (such as climate, biodiversity and quality/sustainability).

Environmental background

An environmentally harmful substance has the potential to threaten the surrounding natural environment and is characterized by one or several of the following properties:

  • aquatic toxicity
  • low biodegradability
  • bioavailable
  • bioaccumulative

Content of enrvironmentallly harmful substances also impairs opportunities to recycle materials.

The persistence of substances in nature is an important environmental parameter. The extent to which substances degrade (aerobic or anaerobic) in the aqueous environment, tells us something about for how long environmental impacts from a certain substance can occur.

Bioaccumulation is the gradual accumulation of substances in an organism. It occurs when an organism absorbs a substance at a faster rate than the substance is metabolised. Thus, the longer the biological half-life of a toxic substance, the greater the risk of chronic poisoning, even if the environmental levels of the toxic substance are not very high.