Dutch government campaign “Whatisinside” falls short in protecting consumers from hazards

Press release

WECF welcomes transparency about chemicals, but sees this new website primarily as an attempt to reassure consumers, whilst neglecting real causes for concern

WECF is critical of the ‘Waarzitwatin’ (Whatisinside) platform launched this week, a Dutch government website on chemicals in consumer products. We welcome transparency and consumer information about chemicals, but see this new website primarily as an attempt to reassure consumers, whilst neglecting real causes for concern.

Industry breaking EU chemical safety law

The website suggests that Dutch and European legislation optimally protects consumers. Unfortunately this is not the case. Dutch consumers would be well advised to be concerned about dangerous substances in toys or tampons, for example. This week the European Environmental Bureau (EEB)* concluded from its own research that existing legislation regarding hazardous chemicals in products is not being enforced, more than 60 Dutch companies are in breach of the law. And also the French ANSES ordered manufacturers last year to eliminate or minimize carcinogenic and hormone-disrupting substances in sanitary pads or tampons.

Sascha Gabizon, Director of WECF International: “EU legislation is years behind the latest scientific insights and needs to be tightened up. Recent studies by ARNIKA also show that imported products such as toys can be found containing harmful substances that are prohibited under European legislation. Offering transparency and giving this type of information to consumers should also be part of the advice on ‘Waarzitwatin’. ”

Other EU countries give better information for consumers on chemicals

Proof that this is possible, was given by the Belgian authorities last week. The Supreme Health Council, the scientific advisory body of the Belgian government, published a long list of 28 specific recommendations with which the population can limit contact with harmful substances themselves. They advice consumers to not heat food in plastic containers in microwaves, amongst others.  The ‘Waarzitwatin’ campaign should take this as an example.

We are positive about the recognition by both the Dutch Ministry of Health and RIVM that there is a greater need for information among the Dutch population. Unfortunately “Waarzitwatin” falls short on this and is too cautious with real risk information. More problematic, it gives incomplete or even wrong information. It states that pyrethroid (toxic for insects) is safe to use, but omits to state that small children should be kept out of the way. Latest research** on flame-retardants show that their toxicity is so problematic that it cannot be promoted as the solution to reduce the number of fire death, which is what is stated on the ‘Waarzitwatin’ platform. That Bisphenol-A (shown to disrupt the hormone system) is ‘safe’ at ‘normal’ use ‘even for babies’, is probably the most worrying statement on the entire website.

The Netherlands lacks a truly independent consumer desk where consumers can go with questions. WECF itself started ten years ago with an internet portal www.projectnesting.org  in which questions about substances and product groups were answered by a team of scientists and toxicologists.

Sascha Gabizon: “We advise the government to delegate this type of service to independent organizations. As WECF we can only tell Dutch consumers to look further than this new, but unfortunately incomplete and partly misleading, site ”


More information in Dutch can be found here

Coverage in the media here: https://www.duurzaamnieuws.nl/overheidscampagne-waarzitwatin-beschermt-consument-niet-genoeg/

*EEB and BUND Germany: ‘Named: major brands ‘breaking EU chemical safety law

**Elsevier: Flame retardants in UK furniture increase smoke toxicity more than they reduce fire growth rate