A new study identifies over 59 hazardous substances found in carpets sold in the EU, including endocrine disruptors and carcinogens, linked to serious health conditions such as cancers, learning disabilities and fertility problems. Exposure to these toxics via inhalation, ingestion and dermal contact proves extremely harmful to pregnant women, babies and small children who are particularly vulnerable to the effects of exposure to chemicals, as well as workers in the carpet industry who are exposed to those chemicals because of inadequate safety measures. Many of these toxic chemicals are also persistent polluters that stay in the environment and can cause adverse impacts on ecosystems. In some cases, health and environmental impacts only show decades later.
Hazardous toxics in carpets also pose additional obstacles to the recycling process, impacting the quality of the recycled end material and the cost-effectiveness of recycling. Less stringent regulations for recycled materials can lead to now-restricted chemicals persisting in recycled products and consequently harm health. In addition, at least 37 toxic substances have not been restricted and/or banned for use in carpets. Many of these have not even been fully evaluated for their health and environmental impacts. 10 substances are currently identified by the EU as Substances of Very High Concern (SVHC), of which only 4 are banned from the market.
The report contains a series of clear recommendations to the EU, Member States and manufacturers aimed at adopting a health-first approach towards the circular economy. It recommends protecting the environment and the health of European citizens by eliminating toxic substances, strengthening regulations for new products, consistent and faster chemicals regulation as well as producer responsibility and eco-design measures to ensure toxic-free carpets.