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Chemicals

Volume 407: debated on Tuesday 24 June 2003

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To ask the Secretary of State for Health what recent research he has conducted into the impact upon human health of the use of (a) bleach and (b) other chemicals in sanitary towels and related items, (c) home cleaning products, (d) detergents and (e) spray furniture polish; what advice has been given to the public relating to their use; and if he will make a statement. [119082]

The Department has not carried out any research into chemicals used in sanitary towels and related items, nor has it provided any advice to the public relating to their use.Since 1984, the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) and the sanitary protection industry have operated a voluntary prior notification scheme for menstrual tampons. This scheme applies to the entire manufactured product, including the instructions for use. Under the scheme, manufacturers submit to Government specifications for proposed new tampons to which there have been significant changes in the design or materials. The Department scrutinises them to decide whether they pose a health hazard and checks the leaflets to ensure that they give the right health message.In the case of chemical products such as bleach, home cleaning products, detergents and spray furniture products, their safety is governed by the Health and Safety Commission's Chemicals (Hazard Information and Packaging for Supply) Regulations 2002. These Regulations require that manufacturers must assess a chemical product for its health effects. If dangerous, the product must be labelled with a warning symbol and phrases indicating the dangers. The particular chemical(s), which cause the product to be classified, must be named on the label. The Regulations also require that all potentially dangerous chemicals supplied to the public must be in packaging that is properly labelled and contains warnings about the potential hazards and giving advice on suitable precautions.Other regulations for protecting the consumer are the DTI's General Product Safety Regulations 1994 (GPSR), which implement the EC General Product Safety Directive (92159/EEC) and apply to all consumer products (or aspects of those products) that are not covered by specific European safety legislation. The GPSR requires manufacturers to ensure that products present no risk or only the minimum risk compatible with the product's use. In other words, producers must first take steps to reduce the hazard as far as possible, then warn about any residual hazard(s) and give advice about the precautions that consumers should take when using the product.

To ask the Secretary of State for Health what assessment he has made of the impact upon (a) human and (b) animal health of the use of PVC chemicals in consumer products; what advice has been given to the public relating to their use; what restrictions have been placed on their use; and if he will make a statement. [119085]

The Department has provided advice to the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) on the health effects of phthalates, which may be present in PVC used in consumer products. It has not provided any advice on the effects on animal health, nor has it given any advice to the public.The safety of chemical products, such as those made from PVC, is governed by the Health and Safety Commission's Chemicals (Hazard Information and Packaging for Supply) Regulations 2002. These regulations require that manufacturers must assess a chemical product for its health effects. If dangerous, the product must be labelled with a warning symbol and phrases indicating the dangers. The particular chemical(s) which cause a product to be classified must be named on the label. The regulations also require that all potentially dangerous chemicals supplied to the public must be in packaging which is properly labelled and contains warnings about the potential hazards and giving advice on sensible precautions.Other regulations for protecting the consumer are the DTI's General Product Safety Regulations 1994(GPSR), which implement the EC General Product Safety Directive (92159/EEC) and apply to all consumer products (or aspects of those products) that are not covered by specific European safety legislation. The GPSR requires manufacturers to ensure that products present no risks or only minimum risk, compatible with the product's use. In other words, producers must first take steps to reduce the hazard as far as possible, then warn about any residual hazard(s) and give advice about the precautions that consumers should take when using the product.