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Understanding chemicals in products: SAICM Policy Brief

The transparency of information about chemicals in global supply chains has been an emerging policy issue for the Strategic Approach to International Chemicals Management (SAICM) since 2009, leading to programmes such as the UNEP Chemicals in Products (CiP) Programme. The CiP programme focuses specifically on the textiles, toys, electronics and building materials sectors.

Information exchange in the value chain is key in identifying and addressing any chemicals of concern1 in products. Brands and retailers frequently lack crucial knowledge about the properties and risks of chemicals used to manufacture products or are direct ingredients of the products. They are not fully aware of whether harmful chemicals are contained in the finished products they sell.

Beyond the supply chain, consumers are asking for more user-friendly, easily accessible and appropriate information on chemicals throughout the chemicals’ life-cycle.

To safely manage chemicals of concern, it is necessary to identify during which life-cycle stage (e.g., production, product use, disposal) hazardous chemicals in products can result in adverse human health and environmental impacts, and target solutions adopting a life-cycle approach.

In this policy brief, a contribution from the GEF-funded project Chemicals Without Concern, we discuss chemicals in products and what the project is doing to minimize the adverse effects of chemicals of concern.

One of the main components of the project, "life cycle management of chemicals present in products", is developing new tools and guidance to reduce the use of chemicals of concern in the building materials, electronics and toys sectors. It also provides training and support for government and value chain actors to trial and adopt new guidance and tools.