Anti-toxic eco products take to Europe's catwalk

Major consumer brands have taken to the catwalk this week in Brussels in a bid to stop other companies from using hazardous chemicals in their products.

In a show organised by Greenpeace, dubbed Substitute with Style, a wide range of green products will be paraded before the public eye, from clothing and cosmetics to DVD-players and shower curtains.

Companies taking part included major retailers Hennes & Mauritz, Reebok, electronic goods multinationals Sony and Sony Ericsson, furniture giant IKEA and Marks and Spencer, as well as eco-companies Ecover, Lavera and Ethnic Wear.

"Progressive and innovative companies are taking direct action to remove hazardous chemicals from their products," Greenpeace spokesperson Helen Perivier stated. "Substitute with Style is a fun event designed to inspire EU politicians with the evidence that the substitution of toxic chemicals is the way forward for Europe's health, environment and industry."

"A substitution requirement should be at the heart of REACH (see related story), the new chemicals regulation, which the European Parliament and Council will vote on later this year."

A few of the items to be shown off along the catwalk will include: televisions and mobile phones that have not been made using brominated flame retardants; children's t-shirts from Marks and Spencer that do not contain phthalates (see related story); and PVC-free trainers from Reebok.

High street retailers recently have been urged to remove these and other hazardous chemicals from their products and substitute them with more ecologically friendly alternatives in order to protect the health of consumers and the environment (see related story).

Recent research by environmentalists has shown that hazardous man-made chemicals are prevalent in everything from television sets and running shoes to house dust, rainwater and blood (see related story).

"The consumer brands on our catwalk are the most responsive to public concern about health and the environment, and they clearly demonstrate that substitution is possible and already happening," said Nadia Haiama-Neurohr from the Greenpeace European Unit. "But many industrial sectors are making no such efforts to stop using toxic chemicals."

"There needs to be a strong legal requirement to substitute in order to create the dynamism needed to trigger eco-innovation and further research into safer substances."

By Jane Kettle



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