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Survey: Exposure to chemicals worries one in five people in Finland

21.5.2014 9.00
Press release

The Finnish Safety and Chemicals Agency (Tukes) has commissioned a survey from Taloustutkimus, examining the Finnish people’s attitudes towards the use of products that contain chemicals. Most Finnish people are unconcerned about exposure to chemicals in their everyday lives. On the other hand, one in five are at least mildly concerned. More than half of Finnish people always or almost always read chemical warning labels and user instructions.

According to a survey, commissioned from market research company Taloustutkimus by Tukes, approximately one in five Finnish people is at least fairly concerned about exposure to chemicals. One in two respondents reports being fairly or very unconcerned.

Women are more concerned about exposure to chemicals than men. People aged 35 to 64 were most concerned, while those younger than 25 were least worried. Inhabitants of the Helsinki metropolitan area are more concerned about chemicals than people who live elsewhere in Finland.

The survey was conducted in April and May among Finnish consumers between the ages of 15 and 79.

Most people read instructions for use

According to the chemical safety survey results, more than half of Finnish people always or almost always read chemical warning labels and instructions for use. One in four people either rarely or never read them. Women clearly read warning labels more often than men.

The survey reveals that, although parents of small children tend to be worried about exposing children to chemicals, families with children read warning labels and instructions more rarely than other households.

How to avoid exposure to chemicals?

The survey respondents were also asked about means of avoiding exposure to chemicals. Most rely on following the instructions for use and other labels, but some 40% reported that they also avoid products containing dangerous chemicals. Some 35% of respondents use protective gloves and other gear.

Fifteen per cent of the respondents revealed that they wash new textiles before use, in an effort to avoid chemicals. More than one in five respondents avoid chemicals by selecting environmentally friendly products. For this reason, some 10 per cent of Finnish people opt for organic products.

People seek information online on the chemicals contained in various products, or by reading the ingredient list on the product label. Some 12% of the respondents do not seek information on chemicals.

“We could do better”

Director Esa Nikunen of Tukes’s Chemical Products Surveillance Department, sees room for improvement in the survey results, even if they were fairly encouraging.

“To use chemicals safely, people must act with caution and familiarise themselves with the warning pictograms. They should also read and follow the instructions. Through their personal choices, everyone can also affect their own and the environment’s exposure to chemicals,” Nikunen explains.

Finnish chemical-related communications are to be improved: the first national programme for achieving this goal was completed at the turn of the year. 

“I hope that more efficient communications will have a positive impact on the general public’s knowledge and attitudes. We plan to conduct the survey again in a year’s time,” says Nikunen.

The chemical safety survey was performed in April and May among Finnish consumers aged 15 to 79. The total number of respondents was 1003. The random sample was stratified according to age, sex, location and household size, in order to represent the target group. The margin of error was 0.9 to 3.2 percentage points, with 95-per cent reliability.

Further information:

Esa Nikunen, Director, Chemical Products Surveillance Department, tel. +358 29 5052 107
Johanna Salomaa-Valkamo, Director of Communications, tel. +358 29 5052 481
[email protected]

See also: The National Communications Plan for Dangerous Chemicals 2014–2020

Survey results:
Report (PDF-file, in Finnish)
Tables (PDF-file, in Finnish)