12 March 2024, Quezon City.  Ahead of the World Consumer Rights Day (WCRD) on March 15, the zero waste and toxics-free advocacy group EcoWaste Coalition urged manufacturers to ensure consumer access to chemicals in product information, and for the authorities to make such a practice mandatory before any commodity is offered for sale in the marketplace, including in online shopping platforms.

The WCRD seeks to raise global awareness about consumer rights, consumer protection, and empowerment.  Led by Consumers International, WCRD serves as a reminder for nations across the globe to enforce consumer rights and meet consumer needs.

“As the WCRD is celebrated, we find it fitting for duty-bearers, specifically the government and the industry, to be reminded about the right of consumers to know the chemicals in products, their functions, and the hazards they pose to health and the environment, if any, and for such information to be made transparent and publicly available,” said Manny Calonzo, Campaigner, EcoWaste Coalition.

“Rights-holders, consumers in general and children, women, and workers, including waste workers, in particular, should have access to such information to assist them in making informed decisions and actions to prevent and reduce their exposure to harmful chemicals,” he said.

The mandatory disclosure of a product’s chemical ingredients and hazards, the EcoWaste Coalition said, will support one of the strategic objectives of the recently adopted “Global Framework on Chemicals  – For a Planet Free of Harm from Chemicals and Waste,” specifically  “comprehensive and sufficient knowledge, data and information are generated, available and accessible to all to enable informed decisions and actions.”  The GFC also targets that “by 2030, stakeholders make available, to the extent possible, reliable information on chemicals in materials and products throughout the value chain.”

According to the EcoWaste Coalition, access to chemicals in product information, for instance, can help parents select age-appropriate and safe toys, school supplies, and other children’s articles free of hazardous chemicals that can put the health of their kids at risk.  Women as consumers of a wide array of personal care and cosmetic products, as well as various household products from cleaning agents to cooking utensils, can use such information to safeguard their health and that of their families, noting that many chemicals can pose a serious risk to reproduction and/or potential offspring.

Knowledge about chemicals used in the manufacture of products can also help workers in seeking alternative raw materials to cut occupational exposures to hazardous substances, the group said.  For waste workers,  chemical ingredients and hazard disclosure can guide them in the proper handling of waste materials to reduce toxic exposures and protect themselves, their families, and communities from harm.

The EcoWaste Coalition further asserted that health and safety information about chemicals should not be regarded as confidential business information as access to such information is essential in making sound regulatory, occupational, and purchasing decisions.

As affirmed in multilateral chemical conventions such as the Minamata Convention on Mercury and the Stockholm Convention on Persistent Organic Pollutants (POPs), “information on the health and safety of humans and the environment shall not be regarded as confidential.”

As the WCRD is commemorated, the EcoWaste Coalition reiterated its unity with stakeholders in promoting the basic rights of all consumers, including the right to safety, right to information, right to consumer education, right to choose, right to representation, right to redress, and, most especially, the right to a healthy environment, a UN-recognized human right.