Samsung Commits to phase out hazardous chemicals

Consumer electronics company upgraded on Greenpeace products database

Press release - 10 June, 2004
Consumer electronics company Samsung has decided to phase out hazardous chemicals used in its consumer electronics. These chemicals are those that persist in the environment because they are not easily degraded. Samsung's decision was prompted by Greenpeace, which tested a Samsung mobile phone and television, among a wide range of consumer products. Phthalates, brominated flame retardants, synthetic musks, alkylphenols or organotin compounds were found in most of the products tested [1]. The environmental organisation published the results on its website [2].

In the last few months, Greenpeace has held discussions with Samsung about its use of brominated flame retardants and phthalates. As a result, Samsung has agreed a definite schedule within its substance policy to phase out the use of these chemicals and switch to cleaner alternatives. This pledge upgrades Samsung's ranking on the Greenpeace products database from red to orange, making Samsung the first producer to have its rating upgraded since the start of the campaign.

"Samsung is setting a trend in the field of substitution of hazardous chemicals in consumer products," says Bart van Opzeeland of Greenpeace. "This should serve as an example for other companies and provide a roadmap for a new strict European chemicals policy, which the EU is currently developing."

Gregor Margetson, Head of European Environmental Affairs for Samsung

Electronics Europe said: "Samsung Electronics has always taken environmental issues seriously and our work with Greenpeace shows we welcome constructive input on such subjects. Their initial criticism motivated us to re-evaluate our goals and consider what is truly possible. We choose to take the difficult option because we have ambitions to become a more sustainable company, and we realise that this prize comes at a price."[3]

During the production, use and waste phase of a product, these 'substances of very high concern' end up in the environment. Traces of these man-made chemicals - which can be hazardous even in small doses (some are notorious hormone disrupters) - have been found all over the world, from the Alps to the North Pole. In a recent Greenpeace report, 'The Poison Link - the story nobody wants to hear' [4], seven scientists unite in agreeing that these kinds of chemicals do not belong in our environment or in the bodies of human beings and animals.

From 1 July, the Netherlands will hold the six-month presidency of the European Union. Greenpeace therefore calls on Dutch State Secretary Pieter Van Geel to work towards a strict EU chemicals policy (REACH) that bans the production and use of hazardous chemicals, and requires industry to substitute such chemicals with safer alternatives, where these are available. Alternatives already exist for many hazardous chemicals and applications.

As some ready-to-use alternatives have yet to be found, Samsung has also committed to seek substitutes for the hazardous chemicals that it currently uses, supporting innovation of new, cleaner chemicals. "Our decision-making process is based on sound common sense," said Gregor Margetson. "We consider all available information, and if necessary back up suspicions with scientific research to confirm the best course of action. In special cases, such as that of suspected links between

chemicals and harm to health or the environment, we are prepared to take action where the evidence is not yet scientifically confirmed, but where it is sufficient to cause concern. Matching moral concerns against commercial realities is never easy, but we like to think that we try to do the right thing."

VVPR info: The Press Release has been issued by Greenpeace European Unit and is also available in French at

Notes: [1] Download report [2] Greenpeace database of hazardous chemicals in products at: [3] For details of Samsung's environmental commitments and chemical control program, see [4] Poison Link report - in Dutch (executive summary in English) at