Not so sweet

Feature story - 28 May, 2003
To most people, it is the pure sweet refreshing act of nature that sometimes soaks you when you least expect it but always washes away the dirt and refreshes the landscape. But along with the rain comes some nasty chemicals where you would least expect to find them.

Rainwater in Europe contains toxic chemicals.

New research on rainwater in the Netherlands, Belgium, and Germany has revealed that rain water is polluted with a huge range of toxic chemicals. This pollution is particularly worrying because the chemicals identified include known and suspected hormone disrupters. This means they act like the hormones that we and other animals have in our bodies. These hazardous chemicals disrupt the correct functioning of the body and harm reproduction and development.

Chemicals in rainwater are just another ingredient of the toxic cocktail of chemicals that surround us in our every day lives. Last month we revealed that toxic chemicals are present in homes across Europe. Many of these pollutants come not from traffic fumes, industrial chimneys or pesticides but are brought into our homes as unseen and unlabeled chemical additives in everyday consumer products. Industry down plays the risks of these chemicals and manufacturers claim that the chemicals remained fixed in the products and that consumers are not exposed. But these chemicals were present in the house dust of almost every single house of the 100 we tested in the UK and in homes in France, Spain, Denmark, Sweden and Finland.

Time for change

We are highlighting the risks of this dangerous chemical cocktail now because there is now a unique chance to bring these chemicals under control. Current chemical laws that should protect us from chemical contamination are weak and ineffectual. The EU is currently drafting new chemicals legislation that would set a world precedent in protection from unseen and unlabeled hazardous chemicals in our home and in our environment.

We must take the first steps to end the chemicals crisis. But the chemical industry, with support from the US administration, is lobbying hard to delay and weaken the proposed law and to protect their profits rather than our health. Environmental, consumer and health organisations are demanding that the new laws phase out the most hazardous chemicals where safer alternatives exist. This would ensure that products in our homes are free of hidden poisons. If the EU acts now and implements strong laws, other areas of the world will follow. If not, a dangerous global experiment on you and me will remain unchecked.


Tell the EU to bring these chemicals under control.

Send an ecard to your friends.


Download the full report Hazardous Chemicals in Rainwater.

Download the full report Consuming Chemicals - Hazardous chemicals in house dust as an indicator of chemical exposure in the home.

Find out more about these chemicals and attempts to control them.