On July 2, 2018, the Swedish non-profit organization International Chemical Secretariat (ChemSec) published two articles on hazardous chemicals and their effects on business and the circular economy.

In the first article, ChemSec outlines how companies’ use of hazardous substances in their products can lead to scandals and become “very costly affairs” because of environmental pollution, economic cost, and damage to brand reputation. As an example, ChemSec mentioned the lawsuit against chemical manufacturer 3M and five other companies for contaminating the environment (i.e., drinking water, surface water, soil, and fish) with their products that contain perfluorooctane sulfonic acid (PFOS, CAS 1763-23-1) and perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA, CAS 335-67-1). These substances are used in firefighting foams, non-stick frying pans and other food contact articles, and waterproof textiles, ChemSec explained. They are linked to “cancer, liver damage, immune system effects and other severe harm to people,” and were found to be “very mobile and persistent in the environment, causing them to accumulate in fish and other wildlife – including humans,” the organization further described. The U.S. state of New York sued the companies with the aim “to recover the costs incurred in cleaning up the contamination, which have amounted to almost $40 million,” ChemSec reported.

In the second article, ChemSec highlighted the importance of chemical safety for a successful circular economy. The organization emphasized the key role of industry in using recycled materials for new products at large scale. “If industry is not interested in using recycled materials, who is going to complete the circle and make it go round and round?,” ChemSec stressed. “[C]ompanies are usually very positive towards using recycled material, but only if it is free from hazardous substances,” the organization pointed out. Therefore, recyclers must be transparent about what their secondary materials contain, ChemSec concluded. In a separate document, ChemSec compiled statements from leading businesses, including H&M, Coop Denmark, IKEA, Dell, and Apple, calling for more “ambitious regulation of hazardous chemicals.”

Read more

ChemSec (July 2, 2018). “Toxic scandals can be costly affairs.

ChemSec (July 2, 2018). “This is what it takes to make circular economy work.

ChemSec (June 2018). “Aim for a circular economy free from hazardous substances.

Tammy Lovell (July 11, 2018). “Companies voice support for toxic-free circular economy.Chemical Watch