Global brands commit to phase out hazardous chemicals in their products

Communiqué de presse - 23 novembre, 2004
Brussels, 23 November 2004 - Major consumer brands whose products range from sports shoes and toys to mobile phones and body care products have committed to phase out hazardous chemicals in certain products. Following discussions with Greenpeace, brand name products made by Unilever, Nokia, Puma, Adidas, and Chicco have been rated by the international environmental organisation Greenpeace on its products database, which tracks the use of hazardous chemicals in consumer brands. [1]

"We applaud the efforts of these industry leaders. They show that safer alternatives to toxic chemicals are readily available and being used, and that the use of toxic chemicals in their products is unnecessary," said Iza Kruszewska, Greenpeace International Toxics campaigner.

Nokia and Puma are following the lead of Samsungwhich in recent months has made commitments to manufacture products free of hazardous chemicals. Other manufacturers are lagging behind, despite the widely acknowledged damage to environment and health that can be caused by the use of such substances.

The chemicals to be phased out and substituted with safer alternatives are of growing concern because of toxic properties and their ability to persist and accumulate in the environment and in human bodies. Hazardous chemicals are now so widely used in consumer products [2] that they have been found in rainwater [3] house dust in our homes, [4] and even in human blood. [5]

§ Puma, a sport-lifestyle brand, has committed to eliminating harmful chemicals from both its sports shoes and perfumes with immediate effect.

Dr. Reiner Hengstmann, Global Head Environmental & Social Affairs at Puma, said: "The intentional use of hazardous chemicals is forbidden and when traces of hazardous substances are found in the product (due to contamination), Puma looks into the source and eliminates the cause. From Puma's point of view, it is well worth the effort to be proactive with our standards whenever the health of our consumers and manufacturing partners is at stake."

§ Nokia, the world's largest manufacturer of mobile phones, has committed to phasing out brominated flame retardants (BFRs) and PVC plastic.

Adidas and Unilever have adopted policies to phase out harmful chemicals in some of their products, but have still to do this across their global product range.

§ Adidas, a sporting goods company, has a policy to phase outtoxic substances from its sports shoes. However, Adidas has yet to adopt a phase-out policy for its perfume and body care products.

§ Unilever has confirmed that its new personal care products, such as the Organics and Timotei shampoo lines, and household products in Europe do not contain hazardous chemicals such as most phthalates, nitro musks or polycyclic musks. However, it has yet to phase out these substances worldwide. Although four of Unilever's Dove body lotion lines are already free of hazardous substances, one still contains the phthalate DEP. And, Unilever has no plans to phase out harmful chemicals in perfumes.

§ Chicco, a manufacturer of toys and baby products, will eliminate the use of PVC within three years; small amounts of this plastic are still used in components, accessories and packaging [6]

Ultimately, although voluntary measures to substitute harmful chemicals with safer alternatives are welcome, they are mostly insufficient, as some companies will only comply with the current legal requirements. These are widely regarded as inadequate.

That's why the EU is currently debating a new chemicals regulation, known as REACH (Registration, Evaluation, Authorisation of CHemicals), in an attempt to bring the current chemical anarchy under control.

"These few companies are proving that they can substitute these hazardous chemicals with safer alternatives," said Nadia Haiama-Neurohr, Greenpeace EU Unit policy adviser. "But the fact that most companies continue to use such substances, and that we have found them in human blood, increases the urgency of the need to reform EU policy. The regulation must include the requirement to substitute harmful chemicals wherever safer alternatives are available and that's not in the proposal at the moment," concluded Haiama-Neurohr.

Greenpeace is launching an international cyberaction to pressure electronics manufacturers [7] to phase out the hazardous substances from their products and to substitute them with safer alternatives. To join, go to: http://www.greenpeace.org/productsaction

Notes: [1] The products database (in English) is at: http://www.greenpeace.org.uk/Products/Toxics/chemicalhouse, and in French at www.vigitox.org[2] http://www.greenpeace.org.uk/MultimediaFiles/Live/FullReport/6043.pdf[3] http://www.greenpeace.org/multimedia/download/1/258905/0/rainwater.pdf[4] http://www.greenpeace.org/international_en/multimedia/download/1/284610/0/4500_web.pdf [5] http://www.greenpeace.nl/reports/more-reports?archived=&campaign_id=446455&start=3http://www.greenpeace.nl/multimedia/download/1/648830/0/rapporttno.pdfhttp://www.greenpeace.nl/multimedia/download/1/648869/0/rapportsauer.pdf[6] Less than 3.2% of Chicco products in its catalogue contain PVC components. Letter from Chicco Artsana to Greenpeace Italy, 10th June 2004. [7] TV manufacturers: Akai, Bang & Olufsen, Grundig, Daewoo, JVC, Panasonic, SharpManufacturers of mobiles phones: Ericsson, Motorola, Panasonic, Siemens, SharpManufacturers of Computers: Acer, Apple, Dell, HP, IBM, Panasonic, Toshiba, Tulip computers

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