Chemicals banned in kitchen appliances. The KEMI report

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Kitchen appliances, electronic devices and power cords may contain toxic, banned and otherwise hazardous chemicals to human health.

The report published on 8.3.21 by the Swedish Chemicals Agency (KEMI) notes the widespread presence in these products widely found in our homes. An ‘invisible’ venomous load.

Chemicals banned in home appliances

The report byKEMI (Kemikalieinspektionen or Swedish Chemicals Agency) summarizes the results of tests conducted in 2020 on kitchen appliances, electronics, and cables.

In total, the agency checked 263 products, finding 33 (13 percent) to be irregular because they contained hazardous chemicals in amounts exceeding legal limits.

The prohibited substances found are mainly lead in solder and phthalates and short-chain chlorinated paraffins in plastics.

Toxic coexistence

Exposure to the toxic substances found in the above-mentioned everyday items is a source of serious danger to human health. (1) Let us recall its impact in a nutshell.

Lead. It is a very toxic substance. It can damage the nervous system and affect the ability to learn. Fetuses and children are particularly sensitive.

Cadmium. Environmentally toxic, can cause osteoporosis, kidney damage and cancer.

PBBs (polybrominated biphenyls) and PBDEs (polybrominated biphenyl ethers), two brominated flame retardants (BFRs), are difficult to degrade and have endocrine-disrupting properties.

Short-chain chlorinated paraffins (SCCPs). Toxic to aquatic organisms. They are persistent, do not degrade in nature, and are suspected of causing cancer.

Phthalates (e.g., DEHP, DIBP, DBP, BBP). In the group ve are some harmful to the testes(infertility risk) and suspected endocrine disruptors.

The toxicity of such substances permeates the entire lifecycle of products: both in the phase of production and disposal as waste, and while in homes, with toxic effects on those who live there.

Non-compliant labeling

KEMI also checked the labeling of the sampled products and found several cases of noncompliance:

  • 33 (13%) due to lack of CE marking (an abbreviation that certifies that the product conforms to European standards),
  • 47 (18%) for the absence or incompleteness of the name and address of the manufacturer and/or distributor and/or importer in the EU.

Some items were found to be non-compliant for both CE marking and contact information.

Improving data

Compared to inspections in previous years, KEMI warns, electronics remains particularly prone to noncompliance due to the presence of banned and potentially harmful chemicals.

However, the trend seems to be improving slightly. In inspections conducted between 2014 and 2019, the share of noncompliant products averaged 31 percent (compared to 33 percent in 2020). The irregularities are similar to those found in 2020, presence of phthalates and short-chain chlorinated paraffins in cable plastics and lead in solder inside electrical products.

Transparency, the Swedish example

The inspections conducted in 2020 involved 109 enterprises, including manufacturers and importers of electrical or electronic items for household and kitchen use, and cables for powering such items.

In keeping with the transparency that is a hallmark of Nordic culture, the outcome of the checks is published in a table showing the product (name and model) and the name of the company responsible (global brands such as De Longhi or Apple, for example, appear). The list of irregulars does not appear to include products also marketed in Italy. The nonconformities concern small operators based in Sweden and inexpensive, low-to-medium level products.

The government action plan

The 2020 report on electrical and electronic products is part of the initiatives carried out under the ‘Action Plan for a Non-Toxic Everyday Life 2015-2020‘ implemented by KEMI on behalf of the government.

The full text of the report is available in Swedish on the KEMI website.

Marcus Hagberg and Charlotte Rahm worked on the project as project managers and Robert Ljunggren, Susan Strömbom and Mariana Pilenvik.

Marta Strinati

Notes

(1) Dario Dongo, Luca Foltran. Toxic chemicals in everyday objects, the English report. GIFT(Great Italian Food Trade). 7/20/19, https://www.greatitalianfoodtrade.it/salute/sostanze-chimiche-tossiche-in-oggetti-di-uso-quotidiano-il-rapporto-inglese

Marta Strinati

Professional journalist since January 1995, he has worked for newspapers (Il Messaggero, Paese Sera, La Stampa) and periodicals (NumeroUno, Il Salvagente). She is the author of journalistic surveys on food, she has published the book "Reading labels to know what we eat".