Exposure to chemicals in consumer products has been associated mostly with acute health outcomes, such as lead poisoning following ingestion of toys and lead contaminated paint. In addition, there is evidence that consumer products contribute significantly to overall exposure to endocrine disrupting chemicals (EDCs) such as phthalates, flame retardants, and triclosan.
Current Policy and Standards
In Israel the only consumer products that undergo a formal registration process, as mandated by legislation, are pesticides, pharmaceuticals, and personal care products. As discussed in the chapter on pesticides, pesticides for household, agricultural and garden use, or for use on pets, are registered by the Ministry of Environmental Protection (MoEP) and the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development (MoAg). The Ministry of Health (MoH) registers pharmaceuticals, personal care products, and pesticides in direct contact with the body, such as mosquito sprays and formulations for lice treatment.
The MoH adopted European policy on cosmetic products from 2009 prohibiting many chemicals for use in cosmetic products, including lead, arsenic, benzene, dibutyl phthalate, diethylhexyl phthalate, and benzyl butyl phthalate. Formaldehyde is permitted in nail hardening products at a concentration up to 5%.
The MoH also registers medical equipment according to the Medical Equipment Law enacted in 2012. In July 2013, the MoH published a notice stating that all pharmacies must stop selling thermometers and sphygmomanometers containing mercury by the end of 2014, and that hospitals and clinics must phase out mercury containing thermometers and sphygmomanometers over the course of 2014.
There are numerous Israeli standards addressing the chemical content of consumer products, mainly those used by infants and/or children or those in contact with food. These standards, which fall under the auspices of the Ministry of Economy (MoE) are generally based on, or adopted from, international standards. According to the Standards Law, the MoE can declare that a standard is mandatory if the standard is required to protect public health, safety, or the environment. If a mandatory standard applies to a product, that product cannot be produced, sold, imported, or exported unless the product meets the requirements of the standard.
The following table (Table 1) lists the major Israeli standards relating to chemical contaminants in consumer products and notes whether the standards are mandatory or voluntary.
Table 1: Israeli Standards Addressing Chemical Contaminants in Consumer Products
In addition to the above standards which specifically address chemical contaminants in consumer products, there are various standards which address labeling and packaging requirements for dangerous chemicals and cleaning products. There are also numerous standards relating to flame resistance of mattresses (including those for infants) and other products, such as couches, infant pajamas, and bed frames. While these standards do not explicitly require the use of flame retardant chemicals, the strict requirements for flame resistance de facto require the use of flame retardant chemicals. The flame resistance standard for infant mattresses is mandatory. The status of the flame resistance standard for mattresses other than infant mattresses is currently under debate.
During 2010–2014, a number of these standards underwent revision, specifically with regard to chemicals contaminants:
- The standard for toys was revised to require quantitative testing for phthalates and is undergoing revision to expand the number of tested metals and other compounds.
- The standard for baby bottles and drinking containers was revised to require a declaration by the manufacturer that bisphenol A (BPA) was not used in the production of the bottle (in addition to quantitative testing of BPA). The revised standard has not yet been approved by the MoE.
- The standards for lead and cadmium in ceramic-ware in contact with food was revised to include cookware with a ceramic coating and glass ware in contact with food, and are voluntary.
Data on Chemicals in Consumer Products
There are limited available data in Israel on chemicals in consumer products. In a survey on phthalate content of imported toys conducted at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, seven out of 40 samples purchased on the Israeli market did not comply with European standards. The phthalates most frequently detected at levels above the standard were DEHP and DINP. Data from the Standards Institution of Israel show that for up to 60% of tested polyvinyl chloride toys, the phthalate content exceeded that required by the Israeli standard. In addition, 10-15% of ceramic-ware tested for metals exceeded the standard; while for plastic containers in contact with food 10% exceeded the standard for total migration.
Research on Exposure to Chemicals in Consumer Products
- Researchers at Assaf Harofeh Medical Center, Tel Aviv Sourasky Medical Center and at Columbia University, NY are exploring predictors of exposure to phthalates and brominated flame retardants in pregnant women, including contact with consumer products.
- Researchers at the MoH are exploring predictors of exposure to phthalates in the general population, including use of personal care products.
Progress and Challenges
- The new Israeli cosmetics regulation (which has yet to be approved by the Knesset) states specific requirements regarding use of nano-materials and prohibits the use of toxic ingredients listed as carcinogenic, mutagenic, or toxic for reproduction according to the European Cosmetics Directive.
- There are very limited available data on the chemical content or contamination of consumer products. For most products, there is no labeling requirement on the product itself to inform the consumer whether the product meets the relevant standard. This is however available on the Standards Institution of Israel website. For consumer products such as pharmaceuticals and personal care products, there is no requirement to label content of chemicals such as phthalates and triclosan. Pharmaceuticals and personal care products do require labeling stating that the product has been approved by the MoH.
- Since the MoE is currently responsible for determining whether standards are voluntary or mandatory, there is a need to re-evaluate the MoH role in guaranteeing implementation of health protective standards.
- Enforcement of official standards regarding chemical contaminants in consumer products should be a priority. The limited enforcement efforts that do exist are focused on imported consumer products, not locally produced goods. In 2011, the State Comptroller described considerable challenges regarding supervision of imported toys with regard to the requirements in Standard 562. The recent addition of 30 inspectors at the MoE is expected to improve enforcement of official standards regarding chemical contaminants in imported consumer products.
This chapter and all other chapters in the report was written by a team of scientists and professionals from the Ministry of Health, in collaboration with Environment and Health Fund.
(1) Israel Ministry of Health (2013). Medical administration notice No. 23/2013: Cease of use of medical equipment holding mercury – Thermometers and Sphygmomanometers (Hebrew).
http://www.health.gov.il/hozer/mr23_2013.pdf (retrieved July 2014).
(2) Ostapenko, I. (2012). Phthalates concentration in child use and care articles: Preliminary screening of the Israeli market. Oral presentation, EHF conference from science to policy: Environment and health in Israel.
http://www.ehf.org.il/sites/default/files/u9/Ivan%20Otapenko%20updated_13.1.pdf (retrieved July 2014).
(3) The Standards Institution of Israel. Israeli Standard.
https://portal.sii.org.il/eng/standardization/israelistandards/.aspx (retrieved July 2014).
(4) The State Comptroller and Ombudsman Israel (2012). Collection of reports for 2011, Chapter two: Israel ministry of industry, trade and labor – The standards institute of Israel (Hebrew).
http://www.mevaker.gov.il/he/Reports/Report_138/f846e99b-c35c-4fe7-976a-2bbce22fa41a/7236.pdf (retrieved July 2014).