Sven Giegold
Member of the European Parliament – Greens/EFA Group

Speaker of the German Green Delegation

Banned poison in imported jewellery must have political consequences

Dear friends,

Dear interested,

The door is wide open for the import of illegal and dangerous products into the EU. The European Chemicals Agency, in cooperation with the chemicals regulation enforcement and customs authorities in 16 EU member states, has tested imported products for their compliance with EU laws. The results are alarming. Almost a quarter (23%) of all tested goods did not comply with EU rules. In the current test series, imported jewellery was tested in particular. Of the 1,225 checks for restricted substances, 17% contained toxic substances above the legal limit. The authorities mainly tested for the hazardous substances lead, cadmium and nickel. These toxins enter our bodies through the skin. Thus many people are poisoned every day without noticing it. This is a case of imminent danger! The situation is even worse with the labeling of imported products. On one third (64%) of all tested products, wrong or insufficient labeling of toxic substances was applied. This misleads consumers and puts European manufacturers who follow the rules at a disadvantage. 

The implementation of the EU rules is the responsibility of the national authorities. But there is no Europe-wide uniform regulation of the penalties that the authorities impose on the manufacturers of illegal and dangerous products. Thus, the range of penalties ranged from verbal warnings to fines to criminal charges. The EU Commission must not only ensure that more tests are carried out, but also to harmonise the sanctions imposed on manufacturers and importers by the member states. The Commission already has powers today to set minimum standards for the number and conditions of the checks carried out by the national authorities. It should make use of this power and set these standards in the framework of the EU market surveillance regulation. 

In our Action Plan for the Green Transition of the Chemical Industry, the first point we call for is the rigorous application and enforcement of existing EU law. Through infringement proceedings, the EU Commission must force the member states to implement the law. After all, our EU rules already protect us from lead and other toxins if they are rigorously enforced. The large number of illegal products found in this tiny study by the European Chemicals Agency shows that the national governments must invest far more money in controls. A sufficiently high density of controls must ensure that the import of these products is no longer worthwhile. I will work to achieve this in direct contact with the responsible authorities in Brussels and on the national level.  

We need a level playing field for everyone. Imported products must meet the same chemical safety standards as products manufactured in the EU. EU citizens and producers must be protected from inferior products from other parts of the world. We therefore call on the EU Commission to set up a long-term European testing program for consumer goods across the continent. This would make it possible to regularly test products of everyday life, such as toys, food packaging and cosmetics. After all, a one-off test series by the European Chemicals Agency may be a wake-up call, but long-term European structures must be created to ensure that laws are consistently enforced. 

The European chemicals strategy for sustainability, which the Commission will present in mid-October, is a unique opportunity for this. I will therefore continue to advocate for a zero tolerance policy for illegal products. So that in the future jewellery does no longer pose a health hazard and European manufacturers can work under fair competitive conditions. 

With energetic green greetings,

Sven Giegold

P.S.: Italian-German webinar on “Funding the Corona Recovery by curbing tax dumping and money laundering” with Finance Ministers Scholz (Germany) und Gualtieri (Italy) on Wednesday, 30.9.2020 7-8pm CEST. Register here: https://us02web.zoom.us/webinar/register/WN_Tt9-EIA_Q9-1eC_QetcPCg