RPT-SPECIAL REPORT-The problem with phthalates

“If a non-toy product is manufactured outside the EU and
imported, there’s very little protection — a notification to
the authorities and not much more,” says Schaible of the EEB.
“The process to remove only a few very high-concern chemicals
will take several decades at this pace… Decision-makers
proposed back in October 2008 a dozen substances to be phased
out, but measures will only be in place for some of these by

To protect European consumers in the meantime — or help
people protect themselves if they are concerned about chemicals
in their products — the EU has instituted transparency
provisions, laws to make information about the chemical
composition of products available to any consumer who asks.

But Vito Buonsante of activist lawyers group ClientEarth
says these “right to know” laws were largely gutted of their
powers from the outset, due to pressure from industry lobbyists.
And as the European Environmental Bureau’s study shows,
virtually nobody in the EU has even heard about that right —
not the shoppers who are supposed to ask the questions, nor the
retailers who are supposed to give the answers.

As well as sponsoring the lab testing, the EEB sent out 158
“right to know” requests to 60 European retailers between April
and August this year. More than half did not answer at all, and
only 22 percent gave a response that met the minimum standards
laid down by the laws.

“In practice it is extremely complicated, even for companies
that want to comply, to find out about the presence of dangerous
chemicals in the products we buy,” says Buonsante. “There are
fines foreseen for not providing the information, but so far
these provisions have been ignored.”

(Additional reporting by Michelle Martin in Berlin and
Dominique Vidalon in Paris; Editing by Simon Robinson and Sara

RPT-SPECIAL REPORT-The problem with phthalates