CHEMISTRY IN OUR LIVES AND THE MEANING OF ‘GREEN CHEMISTRY’
Everything in life is made of chemicals. Everything tangible around us is chemical – both animate and inanimate, herbal, animal, or mineral. There are hundreds and thousands of chemical reactions constantly taking place in our bodies.
There is nothing ‘chemical-free’ on planet Earth and in our solar system: everything in life is chemistry in its different forms. Even the sun, which makes life on earth possible, consists of chemical substances.
Chemicals make a big contribution to our economy. Without chemistry, there would not have been a development of society, but the price for what we have achieved has been high. The rapid development of industry and agriculture has damaged the earth and destroyed nature.
The wise management of chemicals throughout their life cycle – from production to disposal – is essential to prevent harmful effects on human health and the environment.
The SUSTAINABLE development of the chemical industry has become a priority – renewal and sustainable use of resources in connection with the reduction of hazardous waste and environmental protection. This approach is also known as ‘green chemistry’.
LABELS AND CERTIFICATES
There are many different products on the markets, which are labelled or certified by some organization or group in accordance with their instructions and criteria. In Europe, there are at least twenty different labels, most of which are used in agriculture, cattle breeding, and food industries. The so-called natural products are also used in the field of cosmetics and hygiene.
When it comes to cleaning agents, the choice of different labels is smaller. The absence of labelling, however, does not mean that the product is necessarily dangerous to the consumer or to the environment.
For each label, certain criteria have been developed for the different groups of products, to which the products must comply in order to apply for the label. These criteria are updated from time to time and new ones are added.
In the absence of criteria for a product group, these products cannot be labelled. Labelling provides important information for the consumer and also acts as a certain guarantee of the product’s properties. However, it is always possible to obtain the necessary information on the properties of the product and the potential hazards of the product from its safety data sheet, which must always be available to the consumer.
The European detergent market has four distinct labels:
The most well-known ecolabel in the Nordic Countries. Founded in 1989, it monitors the impact of products and services on the environment throughout their life cycle from raw material to waste, focusing on the sustainability of consumption and the society. In order to obtain a license, high demands have been set regarding the environment, health, and quality. The manufacturer is required to document and provide product functionality tests to ensure product quality.
However, this labelling is not particularly strict in regards to the natural origin or ecological nature of the raw materials used.
A French certification organization, established in 1991. It is very commonly used throughout Europe, mainly in the food and cosmetics industry. Checks the content, raw materials, production process, and packaging of the product, but does not require carrying out functional tests and reports.
The criteria do not give any guarantee that the product is 100% natural or 100% ecological or functional, so there is a widespread perception that the ECOCERT criteria are not strict enough and not suitable for a manufacturer of truly ‘green chemistry’.
Since 1 November 2012, cleaning products have been subject to certification at two different levels:
1. Natural Detergents, natural or nature-friendly cleaning agents
They may also include synthetic products and there are no minimum rates for natural and ecological raw materials.
2. Natural Detergents made with Organic Level, natural ecological cleaning agents
Must contain natural raw materials and ecologically-derived raw materials at least to the extent of the specified minimum.
Established in Belgium in 2004 as an ecolabel for cosmetic products, now also includes laundry and cleaning agents. The requirements are slightly stricter than the EU legislation on chemicals, and pay close attention to production processes and storage (fair remuneration for work, fair prices for products for consumers, human rights). Animal testing, genetically modified and fossil-derived raw materials, synthetic colorants and perfumes, and silicones are prohibited. The products and packaging must be biodegradable. The labelling does not require functionality or quality tests.
An ecolabel established by the European Union in 1992, which is considered to be the strictest environmental label.
The so-called EU Flower also belongs to the ‘first type’ of environmental labels and aims to:
1. Promote products that reduce the negative impact on the environment when compared to other products in the same product group.
2. To contribute to the better use of resources and the high level of environmental protection.2.
3. Provide reliable and scientifically-based information on labelled products for consumers.
The product is monitored throughout its life cycle: from raw material to waste; its impact on the environment and health, and its functionality and quality are also checked.
Criteria are regularly reviewed and made stricter continuously.
The EU ecolabel is issued in accordance with the European Parliament and Council Regulation No. 66/2010.
What is the CLP Regulation and why is it important?
If you are in contact with cleaning products, you have the right and the need to know about possible dangers, so you could protect yourself and the environment. In order to assert these rights, the CLP Regulation was adopted by the European Parliament, which entered into force on 20 January 2009.
CLP = Classification, Labelling and Packaging
The CLP Regulation provides two tools for notification of hazards for substances and mixtures: labelling and safety data sheets.
The regulation ensures that the EU consumer is clearly informed about the hazards of chemicals by means of standard phrases on the label and pictograms on the safety data sheet of the product.
Labelling of the product is mandatory for all manufacturers and suppliers if the product contains one or more raw materials that have been classified as hazardous in quantities exceeding a certain threshold.
The purpose of the hazard pictograms is to provide specific information on the hazard concerned.
The most commonly used hazard pictograms on washing and cleaning products are:
|Corrosive substances and mixtures|
|Severe eye damage|
|Corneal tract irritation|
|Skin and eye irritation|
|Acute toxicity (harmful if swallowed or inhaled)|
|Dangerous to the ozone layer|
The absence of hazard pictograms on the label and the safety data sheet indicates that, when used in accordance with the instructions for use of the product, there is no risk to the consumer or the environment.