Economic measures are an effective way to drive change, for example reducing the content of hazardous substances in our products and environment. Sweden’s government is currently considering a proposal to introduce a tax on certain consumer products, including electronics, that contain potentially hazardous chemicals.

While we can support the idea of financial measures to encourage a move away from hazardous substances, we believe the current chemical tax proposal current proposal for a “chemical tax” misses the mark in two ways:

1. The ability to steer product manufacturing away from certain chemicals requires detailed knowledge about the effect and properties of each individual substance. This knowledge is largely lacking today. An estimated 80 000- 90 000 chemicals are currently used in various products and processes. Of these, the human health and environmental effects of only about 40 substances have been researched and documented. Our concern with the proposed chemical tax is that it can increase the risk of manufacturers switching alternative substances with unknown effects and that are potentially more hazardous than those currently in use.

2. Electronics are manufactured in large volumes for a global market. For a manufacturer to change the chemical substances used in their products is both costly and complex. We believe that the current proposal doesn’t offer enough incentive for industry to switch to safer alternatives, thereby increasing the risk of manufacturers continuing as they do today. Together with (Miljomarkning Sverige), we at TCO Development have published the following response to the Chemical Tax proposal.

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Comments on the proposed chemical tax on consumer products, Sweden, 2015.

TCO Development and Ecolabeling Sweden support the concept of a “chemical tax” as a financial tool to influence a shift away from hazardous chemicals in consumer products. However we do not believe the current proposal of tax breaks will be effective in reaching the goal of phasing out the use of the most hazardous substances.

The health and environmental effects of various flame retardants containing bromine, chlorine or phosphates vary widely. It is widely known that halogenated flame retardants containing bromine and chlorine