Chemicals Agency finds hazardous substances in household objects

4:54 min

Around half of 160 plastic products that are commonly found in Swedish homes contain dangerous or hazardous substances, according to a new report from the Swedish Chemicals Agency.

The agency analyzed samples of bathroom products like shower curtains and bath mats, as well as garden equipment, working gloves, sports equipment and more.

The report says that "the results in the project show that a lot of articles, mostly articles made of PVC plastic, on the Swedish market contain substances with hazardous properties. Although the levels in a single article may be low, the combined amount of dangerous substances in use and in the waste flow may be of large impact."

In analyzing the products, the Chemicals Agency found phthalates (plasticisers), short chain chlorinated paraffins (plasticisers and flame retardant), lead, cadmium and dimethylformamide/methylacetamide.

Marcus Hagberg, an inspector at the agency, told Radio Sweden that these are not acute toxins, but that they can leak out of products and have an effect in the long run. 

The agency also said that it has reported 20 companies to the environmental prosecutor "for putting articles on the market, articles containing restricted substances or for not informing recipients of the articles about the content of substances of very high concern".

Hagberg said that consumers can ask retailers if products contain a hazardous chemical that appears on the EU candidate list, though he added that the list does not include every chemical. He also said that consumers can use their sense of touch and smell to decide whether a product is good enough to buy. The surface should not be sticky and the product should not smell bad, he said. 

"Maybe you should think twice before you buy things that are too cheap, that are imported from . . . Asia, because that's where we see most of our problems actually," said Hagberg.