Harmful substance properties

When is a product considered low-polluting and low-emissions? What other environmental properties should a product have? Various evaluation methods are used to answer these questions.

Evaluation of harmful substances in products

There are a number of different, complementary methods to evaluate the environmental and health-related properties of products throughout the product life cycle. These methods take into account to varying degrees the product’s consumption of energy, resources and land use as well as the (eco)toxic properties of the chemicals either in the product itself or the emissions of the product.

In addition to the broad-based methods applied in life cycle assessment of products and in material flow analysis, specialized instruments have been developed for the assessment of (harmful) chemicals. These instruments enable a targeted assessment of the properties of chemicals and their behaviour in products, and a cross-comparison if necessary. These instruments all address to varying degrees the issue of which chemicals should not be contained in or emitted from products, for example:

The criteria for award of ecolabels such as the Blue Angel and the EU Ecolabel also contain requirements which stipulate the exclusion or reduction of problematic substances and which are adjusted according to specific product group. Harmful substance properties which may constitute grounds for a ban of substances in products which bear the ecolabel are identified in the research project “CMR substances in products".

The German Environment Agency had defined fields of action and criteria for a sustainable chemicals policy in the late 1990s in a research project entitled “Action Areas and Criteria for a precautionary, sustainable Substance Policy” (out of print).