The Danish Consumer Council THINK Chemicals’ test methods

20. jan 2016

The Danish Consumer Council THINK Chemicals’ tests are independent of commercial interests. We examine the content of a wide range of products such as deodorants and body lotions and we do laboratory tests of products such as pizza boxes and food containers.

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The Danish Consumer Council THINK Chemicals' test methods
Photo: Istock

We do two types of tests

The Danish Consumer Council THINK Chemicals does two different types of test:

Labelling checks, typically of cosmetics, personal care products and food, for example:

  • deodorants
  • wet wipes
  • chewing gum

Tests with chemical analysis, primarily of consumer products that you or your children may be in close contact with, and if we believe that chemicals may be released from the products to you or your surroundings, for example:

  • pizza boxes
  • nappies
  • school bags

Read about how the two types of tests are done in the tabs below the article.

Substances we look for

The chemicals that we look for in the products either are or are suspected of being:

  • endocrine disrupting
  • allergenic
  • carcinogenic
  • toxic to reproduction
  • environmentally harmful (for example substances that are persistent in nature or substances that accumulate in the environment or in animals)

Products are selected on the basis of three criteria

In chemical tests we select the products on the basis of:

  • academic assumptions about which products may contain hazardous chemicals
  • the wish to create knowledge in new areas
  • the wish to respond to consumers’ interest in knowledge in a specific product area

Generally we buy and select the test products ourselves, in the same way that ordinary consumers buy products.

The Danish Consumer Council THINK Chemicals’ tests are independent

Our tests are independent from industry interests. We receive no forms of advertising revenue or sponsorship.

The Danish Consumer Council THINK Chemicals is not a public authority, but an initiative under the independent member organisation the Danish Consumer Council.

The Danish Consumer Council THINK Chemicals is funded by a Finance Act grant.

Read about ‘the Danish Consumer Council THINK Chemicals.

We follow the Danish Consumer Council’s other test guidelines that you can read about here (in Danish)

Ask us about test methods

If you have any questions about how we test, you may contact

  • Senior Project Manager Mr. Claus Jørgensen, cj@fbr.dk
  • Project manager and test responsible Ms. Stine Müller, sm@fbr.dk
  • Project manager and test responsible Ms. Christel Søgaard Kirkeby, csk@fbr.dk
Labelling check

Labelling check of cosmetics and personal care products

When we do labelling checks, we buy a number of typical cosmetics or personal care products, for example:

  • deodorant
  • body lotion
  • sunscreen
  • hand soap

Then we examine the product’s ingredients list one by one.

Labelled products such as food and detergents may also be subjected to a labelling test. We have for instance done a labelling test of chewing gum where we examined the content of the preservatives BHA and BHT.

Labelling check do not assess the concentration

In labelling checks we assess the ingredients that are listed on the products’ ingredients list. We do not do chemical analyses and therefore we do not know the concentration of the substances, ie the quantity of substances found in the product.

Our assessment is based solely on whether or not the product contains hazardous substances.

For our labelling checks we mainly select widespread and inexpensive products that you may for instance find in the supermarket chains.

To a lesser extent we also buy more expensive products as well as niche market products, eg natural products or products from internet shops or parallel import shops.

Our test score

In tests we give the scores A, B and C. The scores have the following meaning in labelling tests:

‘A’ – The product is a good choice. It does not contain a number of problematic substances.

‘B’ – The product is free from a number of problematic substances, but it contains perfume or substances that may affect the environment. You may choose to avoid the B products if you want to minimize the risk of fragrance allergy and take maximum account of the environment.

‘C’ - The product contains problematic substances, eg substances suspected of being endocrine disrupting. The substances are usually permitted for use and each product is not harmful in itself, but they contribute to your overall exposure to problematic substances.

Tests with chemical analysis

How we test with chemical analysis

When we test with chemical analysis, we send a number of products, eg pushchairs, school bags or mobile phones, to a laboratory where they are examined.

We do tests with chemical analysis of many kinds of products. But our focus is on products that ordinary consumers, including children and young people, are in close contact with.

The purpose of laboratory tests is to identify the content of hazardous chemicals in products from large, well-established manufacturers as well as in niche products from small manufacturers or importers.

Chemical tests can be very expensive so we do not examine the entire chemical composition of a product.

Instead we analyze the products for selected, relevant chemicals. We prioritize on the basis of the product's materials and input from other studies on the subject and for instance authorities, researchers and test laboratories.

We typically examine the level of undesirable substances in various relevant parts of a product in a collective sample. This means that it is not always possible for us to say exactly from what part of the product the undesirable substances originate. On a mitten we may for instance examine the content of a chemical in the outside material, the inside lining and the Velcro-closing in one single test. If we find the undesirable substance, we do therefore not know exactly which of the three parts that contains the hazardous substance.

The parts of a product that we consider relevant are typically the parts that you may get in contact with when using it.

For a pram this is for example:

  • upholstery
  • straps
  • mattress
  • folding top and handles

This does not apply to the wheels and frame of the pram however.

How we assess chemicals in the chemical analysis

When we assess the content of chemicals in products, we take it as our starting point that products without hazardous substances are safest for consumers and that the risk of individual products may contribute to the overall risk of adverse effects. This is known as the combination effect or cocktail effect.

The specific risk associated with the product in question we rarely know.

As far as possible we assess the chemical content by using external references to concentrations.

Our references may be limit values used in legislation or for instance official guidelines – even if the legislation does not cover the product in question or all the substances found within a substance group.

The limits may also come from private certification schemes. For some substances we do not have references with concentration limits, and we must instead set the limit in other ways, for instance by comparing the concentration of all the products tested and with the help from experts, including the laboratory.

Our test evaluation criteria

Our test evaluation is based on these lists

Our evaluations are based on substances that are included on one or more of these lists (external links):

Other substances may be included, for instance if they are assessed as being hazardous in a SCCS opinion or by another scientific body in Denmark or abroad (eg the National Food Institute or BfR in Germany).

The same applies to substances that have been brought in focus by Danish or foreign authorities or are included in the criteria of a private labelling scheme (eg Ecolabelling Denmark or Sustainable Textile Production).

Information for companies and stakeholders

Labelling check: information for companies

As regards labelling checks we send the results of products to manufacturers prior to the release. We send information about the product, which chemicals we have found and what substances caused the assessment.

Tests with chemical analysis: information for companies

The Danish Consumer Council THINK Chemicals sends the results of chemical analyses to manufacturers prior to publication of the test. We send information about the product, which chemicals we have tested for and the test results. Manufacturers are given at least one week (5 working days) to make comments.

The primary purpose is to inform the manufacturer about the coming test and about the specific substances we look for and to ensure that there are no factual errors in the results. Also it provides manufacturers with an opportunity to respond to the findings before publication, which we can mention in connection with the publication.

We will not disclose which laboratories that carries out the tests for us. We believe that we can best ensure that the laboratories can act independently of other interests when we do not disclose this information.

The results of the analyses are also sent for information to the Danish EPA / the Danish Veterinary and Food Administration.

Publication of tests

The results of all tests are always published on kemi.taenk.dk where all products are given an A, B or C evaluation of the chemical content and information is provided about the underlying reasons for this evaluation.

If the products have also been tested for their functioning, the test is also published on taenk.dk. In that case the content may be included in the Danish Consumer Council’s overall evaluation of the product.

In connection with the publication information about the overall test results may be sent to relevant authorities and interest groups.

If the test shows any chemical content that is presumed to be unlawful, the product is reported to the authorities. This may also apply to claims which are misleading considering the content. In that case the manufacturer is informed about the report.