98% of chemicals ingredients in South Korea untested

Kelly Lee, May 16, 2016, 9:43 a.m.


Nearly all, or 98 percent of chemicals used in products distributed in South Korea have not gone through government safety tests, data showed Monday. According to data provided by the National Institute of Environmental Research, the Environment Ministry conducted chemical toxicity tests on about 600 chemicals out of 37,000, as of 2015. The Toxic Chemicals Control Act took effect in 1991.

The ministry reportedly explained that the rest of the chemicals were not tested as they were “general chemicals,” a class of chemicals defined as having been in widespread use for a long time without serious toxic effects. 

The government has also argued it is impractical to test all 37,000 chemicals and categorize them by toxicity.

Since 1991, general chemicals have made up 92 percent of all substances currently used in products nationwide. The practice has left loopholes in safety management for the past 25 years.

Substances CMIT and MIT used in making the humidifier sterilizer of Aekyung, for instance, were permitted for use until they were designated as toxic materials in 2012. Lawyers’ group Minbyun said the current management of chemical ingredients posed grave dangers and called on the government to test all substances that have not had their safety proven. 

Observers also pointed to problems with the current management system of chemicals used in household goods. In 2015, the government implemented the Chemical Registration and Assessment Act and designated 15 kinds of products such as sterilizers, deodorants and air fresheners as household chemical products.

But these products do not need to list the chemicals they contain, apart from those designated by the ministry as toxic. 

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