On 1 June 2007, the REACH Regulation, cornerstone of EU chemicals legislation, entered into force. One of the reasons for developing REACH was to improve citizens' confidence in the EU regulatory framework and the safety of products.
Today, Commissioner Bieńkowska presents the findings of the Eurobarometer survey on chemical safety in her keynote speech at the Helsinki chemicals forum. The study reveals the impact REACH has made in its 10 years’ existence.
44% of EU citizens consider that safety of chemicals contained in products has improved in the last 10-15 years. They also have a higher level of confidence in products manufactured in the EU compared to those imported from outside.
Two-thirds of citizens feel concerned about being exposed to hazardous chemicals, while in general, citizens in Northern Europe feel better informed about the potential dangers of chemicals than citizens in Southern Europe. The main sources of information used by the public to get such information are product labels and media.
Other findings of the Eurobarometer survey are as follows
- Perceptions of safety vary considerably between EU countries, although almost half of the respondents think that chemical products are safe for human health and the environment. Correspondingly, half of the respondents say that the current level of regulation and standards in the EU is not high enough and should be increased.
- 2 in 3 respondents know that if they ask whether a product contains particularly hazardous chemicals, the seller is required by law to inform them. Only a small minority does not think this is the case.
- There are varying perceptions of who currently has and who should have responsibility for ensuring the safety of chemicals contained in consumer products in the EU. 3 in 10 respondents think this responsibility currently lies with multiple actors (i.e. EU authorities, national authorities or manufacturers), while more than 4 in 10 respondents think that this responsibility should lie with more than one actor.
- The cornerstone of safety information is the label, as regulated by the EU's CLP Regulation. Awareness and comprehension of hazard pictograms on the CLP label vary across the different pictograms. They are quite high for certain pictograms, especially for the ‘flammability’ pictogram, but only 1 in 5 say that they have seen the serious health hazard pictogram before, and just 1 in 6 know the meaning of the exclamation mark pictogram.
About the Eurobarometer survey on chemical safety
This survey contributes to the Commission’s REACH REFIT evaluation and to the fitness check of chemical legislation (excluding REACH), providing information on the general public’s perception of chemical safety. The target sample size in most countries was 1,000 interviews. In total, 28,157 interviews were conducted.