Antibacterial and antimicrobial substances counteract the growth of, for example, bacteria or fungi and could appear in detergents, soap, toothpaste, deodorant, cleaning detergents and clothes. “Bactericidil” and “inhibits bad odor” sound tempting. However, antibacterial substances such as triclosan, trichlorocarbon and silver are environmentally hazardous because they are broken down very slowly or not at all, and therefore accumulate in nature.
Triclosan and silver are highly toxic to aquatic organisms, and trichlorocabon and triclosan can cause reproductive disorders.
Antibacterial substances can also contribute to resistant bacteria and thus in the long run to ineffective antibiotics.
BPA is one of several bisphenols and one of the world's most common plastic chemicals. It is used, among other things, to manufacture polycarbonate that is used in CDs, pipes, thermal paper for receipts, water bottles and kitchen equipment. It is also used to make protective coatings in cans and tubes. Studies show that bisphenol A in packaging can pass into food.
BPA is similar to the female sex hormone estrogen and is suspected of affecting humans in various ways, for example by causing obesity, early puberty and reproductive disorders. BPA is now banned in baby bottles and baby food packaging.
Goods manufactured in the EU must be CE marked, "Conformité Européenne". The manufacturer declares at its own risk that it complies with EU legislation for that particular product category. CE-marked toys must, for example, live up to stricter requirements for which chemicals have been used in production than toys imported from other parts of the world.
But look carefully when you shop: China Export runs with a similar logo.
CHEMICAL PRODUCTS can be detergents, paints and crayons. There is an extensive regulatory framework around them. If they are dangerous, they must be marked with a danger symbol and have a safety data sheet with all the necessary information.
HYGIENE PRODUCTS / COSMETICS such as soap, skin cream, sunscreen and make-up are seen as a separate category. A table of contents is required for these products. The same applies to FOODS and MEDICINES.
GOODS such as toys, household utensils and furniture also contain chemicals, but here the legislation is weaker and it can be difficult to get information about what the doll or sofa contains. Some harmful substances are banned in goods produced within the EU, but may still be used in imported goods. Many substances are not sufficiently tested.
A chemical is a chemical substance or a mixture of chemical substances. In everyday speech, we usually mean substances that have been manufactured by man or that are used by man in industrial production. Chemicals are part of most things we have around us, and are used to give our things the properties we want: color and shape, softness and scent, stability and durability, etc.
Since the 1950s, the world's chemical production has increased from less than 10 million tons to over 400 million tons per year.
Far from all chemicals are harmful. The problem is that they are so many, and that new ones are added all the time and placed on the market before they are carefully explored. The chemicals are spread in the environment during the manufacturing of the product, during use and ultimately when it becomes waste. The chemical threat is today considered by some researchers to be as great as the climate threat. But because it's harder to see and explain, it does not get as much attention.
Under European law, the consumer has the right to find out if a product contains any of the particularly dangerous substances on the so-called candidate list. This lists substances that, according to the EU, can have serious and lasting effects on human health and the environment, for example that they can cause cancer, mutations, impaired reproductive capacity or hormonal disorders.
As a professional buyer, you should actually receive this information automatically, but it does not always work in practice. A private person also has the right to receive answers to questions within 45 days. Dare to be an active consumer.
Today, more than 100,000 chemical substances are registered for the EU market, and world production of chemicals increased 57 times from the 1950s until the turn of the millennium. We eat chemicals, we inhale them and we come in contact with them through the skin.
Newborn babies have an average of 200 chemicals in their blood, such as pesticides, industrial chemicals and flame retardants. Many of these chemicals have been shown to be harmful to health: Some are, for example, allergenic or carcinogenic, others are endocrine disruptors.
The problem is that we are not exposed to one chemical at a time. Small amounts of many different chemicals that meet in the body can interact and the total effect can be greater than when you count the toxicity of each substance separately. This is called the cocktail effect.
Flame retardants are used to make a material less flammable and prevent the spread of fire. They are used in furniture, textiles, rubber cables, insulation materials and electronics etc. Plastic materials such as foam rubber are often treated with flame retardants because they burn easily and emit toxic fumes. There are many different flame retardants, and several have been shown to be harmful to humans and the environment. Many are difficult to degrade and accumulate in the organism, some can cause cancer or are suspected to be endocrine disrupting. The worst, the so-called brominated flame retardants, have been regulated in the EU in recent years, but are still found in many daycare centers in the form of old foam rubber mattresses and furniture. Flame retardants of various kinds are found in measurable levels in both our blood and in breast milk.
This actually includes most metals, but the term is mostly used for metals and alloys that are harmful to health and the environment. They are found in the air we breathe, in the food we eat and in things we use, such as electronics, counterfeit jewelry, low-energy lamps, plastic and car tires (which contain lead, cadmium and zinc, among other things). Heavy metals are actually naturally occurring elements, but when they occur in higher concentrations due to human activity than our own bodies, plants, animals and nature are adapted to, they cause problems.
LEAD is harmful to the nervous system and can cause developmental defects in the brain of fetuses and children. Since lead in petrol was phased out and banned, the levels of lead in children's blood have decreased markedly. But lead can still be found in, for example, car tires, artist's clay, keys and as an added stabilizer in old plastic and paint.
CADMIUM affects the nervous system and accumulates in the kidneys where it helps to decalcify the skeleton and increase the risk of osteoporosis. Color pigments that contain cadmium are still allowed in artist's paints - a reason why children should not create with materials intended for adults. But we also get cadmium through food.
CHROME can occur in color pigments and in chrome-plated furniture, and can in some forms be harmful.
MERCURY is found in, among other things, low-energy lamps and fluorescent lamps and is very harmful to the nervous system.
NICKEL is allergenic and possibly also carcinogenic, and is often found in fake jewelry, belt buckles and the like. Other metals that can be harmful at high levels are, for example, aluminum, cobalt, copper and arsenic. Examples of health risks associated with various heavy metals are osteoporosis, cancer, diabetes, cardiovascular disease and the impact on the development and function of the nervous system.
Microplastics, small plastic particles that are less than 5 millimeters in diameter, make up the largest proportion of all plastic debris in the world's oceans. Nature cannot completely break down plastic, but the plastic breaks down into smaller and smaller pieces. The smaller the particles, the greater the risk of them being absorbed into the tissues of marine animals. Fish can also believe that the plastics are food, which affects animals throughout the food chain. It is also suspected that these plastic particles can bind to environmental toxins, which further damages the animals. The plastic particles can come from, for example, industrial waste, wear and tear on car tires, washing of fleece garments, beauty products, boat hulls and artificial turf.
Nanoparticles is a collective name for very small particles, less than 100 nanometers in diameter. Because they are so small, they have completely different properties than the same substance in normal size. They are used in, for example, paint, cosmetics, textiles, sports equipment and electronics because you want these special properties, but at the same time the dangerous properties of the substance can also change. We do not yet know enough about what happens when nanomaterials are taken up and spread in the body and in the environment.
Fragrances can cause allergies and eczema, and also aggravate asthma. There are just over 2,500 perfume substances, of which at least 100 are allergenic in contact with skin. More than 30 of them are banned in the EU, and there is also a list of natural fragrances that are subject to labeling because they are allergenic and cause contact allergies (eg limonene, cinnamal and geraniol). Some substances are not irritating on their own but become allergenic when mixed with others and stored, such as in hygiene products. Some fragrances are found in many products, which means that we are exposed to them from different places over and over again every day. An example is synthetic musk, which has been found in sludge from sewage treatment plants, in sediments and in fish. In humans, the musk substances pass through the skin and accumulate in the adipose tissue. Swedish studies show that the more perfume or perfumed products (such as deodorant and perfumed detergent) a woman uses, the higher the dose of the musk compound HHCB she transfers to her child when she is breastfeeding. We do not yet know how this will affect the human body and the environment in the long term. The safest way is to choose mild and unscented cleaning and hygiene products, especially for children's thin skin.
Insecticides are often neurotoxins, and even harmful to humans, animals and nature. In addition, pesticides kill the bees that are vital for our world to bear fruit. Weed killers can also be harmful. Round-up is a controversial herbicide that is considered to be carcinogenic because it contains glyphosate (a herbicide that has been accused of contributing to several different diseases). By eating organic, you reduce the risk of ingesting pesticide residues. By eating a varied diet, you also reduce the risk of ingesting high levels of any particular pesticide.
Plastic is a cheap and versatile material that can be shaped in countless ways. The most important raw material for plastic so far is crude oil. The plastic is made of small molecular building blocks, so-called monomers. They are bound together into long chains, polymers. By varying the type of monomers used, how long the polymer chains are and what additives are added, you can get different types of plastic that can be used for almost anything: toys, textiles, medical equipment, packaging, building materials and cars. The polymer is seldom harmful, but the monomers can be, and in some plastics there is a greater risk that they will break loose and leak out. Many of the additives used to produce the properties you want in the plastic - such as consistency, stability and fire resistance - can also be harmful and risk leaking out of the plastic while the product is being used. So there are different types of plastic, often named after the material they are made of. It is generally said that polyethylene plastics (PE, recycling labels no. 2 and 4) and polypropylene plastics (PP, no. 5) are among the better grades - unless dangerous additives have been made. The inferior varieties include vinyl or polyvinyl chloride (PVC, no. 3), and polycarbonate plastics (PC, is counted for as "other plastics", no. 7). Plastic is often one of the things you look at first when you want to reduce the harmful chemicals at home or in kindergarten.
Preservatives are found in cosmetics, soap, dyes and other liquid products so that harmful bacteria do not grow. Common preservatives are parabens and kathon. Some parabens are suspected to be endocrine disruptors, and therefore the allergenic substance kathon (eg methylchloroisothiazolinone and methylisothiazolinone) is sometimes used instead. From 2017, the amount of Kathon is limited in colors for children. The EU's Scientific Committee has in recent years reviewed the research available on parabens, and it is considered that parabens are inoffensive in the low levels that may occur. However, Denmark, which is at the forefront of chemical research, has banned several parabens in products for children up to three years of age. In food, chemical preservatives are used to keep mold, yeast and bacteria away. Preservatives must be approved nationally and within the EU, but this does not guarantee that they are safe. British studies have shown that sodium benzoate exacerbates hyperactivity and ADHD in children, and sodium nitrite (E250), which is found in charcuterie products such as sausages, ham and liver pate, has been linked to an increased risk of cancer. It is difficult to assess the risks of long-term use, as well as the cocktail effect when many chemicals are mixed with each other.
Rubber can be found in gloves, foam rubber, toys, rainwear, kitchen equipment etc. Rubber was from the beginning made of sawdust from the rubber tree. However, the supply of natural rubber (latex) does not cover demand, so today there are many different types of synthetic rubber. Both natural rubber and synthetic rubber use chemicals for vulcanization (treatment to get the right consistency and elasticity) and aging protection, and they are partly left in the finished products. Pacifiers of both natural rubber and silicone are, however, carefully regulated in the legislation and are considered safe. NATURAL RUBBER or LATEX can be allergenic in repeated skin contact, for example via gloves. When it comes to toys made of natural rubber: buy only those intended for children under 3 years. They must not contain carcinogenic nitrosamines. NITRILE RUBBER is an example of synthetic rubber. Here, too, there may be allergenic additives, but nitrile gloves are still considered safer to use than latex and vinyl. POLYURETHANE (PU or PUR) is used in, for example, foam rubber and as a surface layer on rainwear and mattress covers. Isocyanates are used in the manufacture, which cause asthma and allergies and some of which can cause cancer. However, the surface layer of textile is hardened so that loose isocyanates should not leak out. Therefore, polyurethane is considered a better choice than PVC. SILICONE RUBBER is used in, for example, baby bottles, baking tins and food packaging. It is made with silica sand as a base and is today considered a safe material. However, information about the additives of the product is often missing.
Companies that place chemical products on the market are obliged to provide safety data sheets to those who use the product professionally. The safety data sheet contains information on the product's hazardous properties and risks and on how it can be handled safely.
European legislation places extra demands on the safety of toys intended for children under 14 years of age. The so-called Toys Directive was added in 2007 but became more strict in 2013, and then had greater restrictions regarding chemicals. As of 2013, so-called CMR substances (carcinogenic, mutagenic and reproductive substances) are banned in toys produced in the EU, as well as perfume substances that are banned in cosmetics. However, nanomaterials, endocrine disruptors and allergens other than fragrances are not mentioned in the directive. Make daycare toy purchases with care: Discount department stores often buy leftover stock from abroad: 80 percent of the toys imported come from China, where there are not the same restrictions as here.