The campaign „The fight to know“ initiated the awareness raising of consumers and distributors on substances of very high concern

May 20, 2016

Belgrade, 20 May 2016

The results of the campaign "The Fight to Know!" indicate that not all manufacturers, importers and distributors of products are aware of their obligations and responsibilities arising from the provisions of the Law on Chemicals. This was reflected in the fact that many of them did not provide adequate information on the enquiry on the content of substances of very high concern (SVHC) in the products produced, imported and distributed in the market of the Republic of Serbia.

Ministry of Agriculture and Environmental Protection, the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and civil society organizations ALHem (Safe Chemicals Alternatives), jointly conducted a 6 months long awareness raising campaign 'The Fight to know! ". The purpose of the campaign was to verify the implementation in practice of the provisions of the Law on Chemicals related to information of consumers about the content of SVHC in consumer products and to raise the awareness of the importance of informing consumers about these substances. Partners in the implementation of this particular campaign were three consumer associations CEPS, APOS and the FORUM, as well as the Belgrade Institute of Public Health.

Overall, 90 products from PVC plastic have been selected as main objects of the Campaign (cables, medical devices, toys, flooring, clothing, beach equipment, household utensils, baby equipment, school supplies, plastic utensils and accessories for mobile phones), which can potentially contain phthalates, a group of substances that fall under the SVHC. Content of these substances in products was tested through communication with distributors of those products, and the actual content of phthalates in samples of selected products was determined by laboratory analysis.

According to the results of the campaign, out of total of 90 submitted requests for information, communication was established with 47 distributors (52.2%), out of which 20 (22.2%) provided a concrete answer to the question about the presence of SVHC in the product. From the remaining 27 responses (30.0%) it can be noted that: 1. many distributors who responded to the request are not familiar with the obligations and responsibilities arising from the provisions of the Law on Chemicals, 2. the fulfillment of obligations arising out of other regal acts has been misunderstood with the obligations prescribed by the regulations on chemicals. These results indicate a low level of information on substances of very high concern, as well as the low level of awareness of manufacturers, importers and distributors of the obligation to submit information about SVHC presence in products, which results in low level of implementation of obligations prescribed by the  Article 27 of the Law on Chemicals.

Laboratory tests of phthalate content in selected products revealed the presence of phthalates in a concentration greater than 0.1% (positive) in 24 samples (26.7%). In relation to the total number of samples which were positive to the presence of phthalates, six samples belongs to cables, four to medical equipment, three falls under PVC flooring, toys and clothing and two under beach equipment and household utensils, while one positive sample falls under baby care products. None of the tested samples of school supplies, plastic tableware and accessories for cellular phones, contain phthalates in concentrations above 0.1%. Detailed report on the campaign "The Fight to know!" can be obtained from the websites of the Ministry, UNDP and ALHem.

Results of initiated communication with the distributor and the results of laboratory tests showed that all distributors of products that were positive for the presence of phthalates, failed to provide adequate and accurate information. Ministry of Agriculture and Environmental Protection will inform competent authorities and inspection services of relevant ministries on the obtained results in order to take measures for the proper application of the provisions of the Law on chemicals and accompanying bylaws.

The campaign "The Fight to Know!" Was accompanied by promotional activities in order to raise consumer awareness about the possible presence of SVHC in products that are used daily, as well as the legal right to request information about such substances in products, prescribed by the provisions of Article 27 of the Law on Chemicals. In the week of consumers, in Belgrade, Nis and Novi Sad were held in local promotional events were held on the occasion of celebrating the „Consumers Week“ during which consumers had the opportunity to meet with organizers of the campaign and to become familiar with hazardous chemicals in products through various brochures, as well as to get precise instructions on how to exercise their right to information.

The campaign "The Fight to Know!" was conducted within the project "Capacity Building and Strategic Partnerships for Chemicals Safety in the Republic of Serbia." The project implemented by the Ministry of Agriculture and Environmental Protection with the technical support of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and the financial support of the "SAICM Quick Start Programme Trust Fund", in collaboration with civil society organizations: Safe Chemicals Alternative (ALHem) and Women in Europe for a Common Future (WECF).

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