A little prudence goes a long wayThe Environment Ministry embarked on a comprehensive safety probe into chemical compounds used in everyday biocide products.
It has demanded that over 8,000 companies producing and importing 15 household chemical products, including air fresheners and deodorizing agents, provide lists of the chemical compositions of their products within the first half of the year and has issued plans to scrutinize over these lists.
Next year, the probe will be extended to household goods that were not deemed harmful in the past, such as chemicals going to industrial products like air conditioners and filtering agents, as well as disinfectant or packaging chemicals used in industrial workplaces.
The government must thoroughly conduct safety tests for all chemical-containing products and ban them for good if they are found to be potentially dangerous.
At the same time, authorities must legally require manufacturers and distributors to label all the components in everyday chemical products. Consumers innocently used products without any awareness of the potential dangers because companies kept their ingredients secret, citing business confidentiality protocol.
Hundreds of people were sickened and killed by humidifier sterilizers because companies abused this regulatory loophole.
If labeling becomes compulsory, companies can no longer include questionable chemicals in their products.
Consumer and civilian groups must keep up with the latest test results and safety news and conduct separate safety tests and investigate new consumer products to ensure their safety. Such all-out endeavors could make our society safe from chemical dangers.
Authorities also should consider adopting pre-licensing review systems for chemical-containing consumer goods. The European Union, for instance, only allows products into the market if they pass strict guidelines.
Companies would have to consider public health ab initio, from the developing stage, if they want to market their products. To prevent casualties from recurring due to consumer goods, authorities must come up with strong and reliable consumer protection measures.
JoongAng Ilbo, May 25, Page 30