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What do Europeans think about chemicals?

The Eurobarometer study of almost 28 000 people in 28 countries shows that 65 % are concerned about being exposed to hazardous chemicals, 26% were very concerned, and 39% were a little concerned.

The level of concern varies according to the respondents’ Member State, with those in northern Europe generally feeling more informed and less concerned than those in southern Europe. Having said that, in every Member State, at least half of the respondents showed some level of concern.

Are hazard pictograms helpful?

The survey also looked at citizens' awareness of the hazard pictograms. Despite the fact that citizens may have had limited opportunity to become familiar with the new pictograms, some are already very familiar with them.

  • 92 % have seen the ‘flammability’ pictogram and almost all of them (96 %) knew its meaning.
  • At the other end of the scale, only 20 % recognised the ‘serious health hazard’ pictogram.

 

Citizens also act on the information provided on labels:

  • 76 % read the safety instructions,
  • 57 % read the instructions on the label, and
  • 19 % also search for further information.

Are citizens more positive about EU products?

Almost half of the respondents, 47 %, thought that products manufactured in the EU are safer than those produced elsewhere. Only 5 % thought that products imported from outside the EU contain safer chemicals.

Interestingly, as many as 30 % had little confidence in either – believing that neither products manufactured inside or outside the EU contain safe chemicals.

Citizens see an improvement

Respondents to the survey were also asked whether they thought the safety of products containing chemicals has improved or deteriorated, compared to 10 to 15 years ago.

  • 44 % think that the safety of chemicals in products has improved over the last 10 to 15 years;
  • 33 % feel it is more or less the same; while
  • 16 % feel that it has deteriorated.

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