Councils don’t have the tools they need to keep us safe from hidden chemicals

The UK has strong rules in place to protect us from dangerous chemicals. But rules are useless without proper enforcement.

Councils across the UK carry out checks on everyday products like clothes, cosmetics and children’s toys to make sure they’re free from toxic chemicals.

But after years of cuts, councils are struggling to keep on top of businesses flouting the rules. 

Our investigation, based on freedom of information requests to 198 local authorities in England, Scotland and Wales, found that:

  • Between 2017 to 2019, just 51% of councils tested consumer goods for hazardous chemicals.

  • Only ten councils took more than 100 samples over this period.

Our heatmap shows how Local Authorities across the country are struggling to test the products we buy for harmful substances – with 87 councils taking no samples at all over the last three years.

View large map
See the full findings

This means it’s getting harder to stop goods containing illegal levels of chemicals from making their way into our homes.

Why are councils struggling to keep us safe?

Our councils do an amazing job to keep us safe. Last year, Trading Standards teams removed unsafe items worth a total £92.8 million from supply chains – preventing over 2,002 serious injuries and over 1,716 fires.

But right now, they just don’t have the tools they need for the job.

Most of these bodies have suffered significant funding cuts since 2009, with resulting declines in staff numbers. Local Authority Trading Standards have been hit particularly hard, with a 56% reduction in Trading Standards staff and net spend on trading standards in England falling by half.

As we rebuild our society after Covid-19, the government must set a better course for the future by strengthening the rules that keep us safe, and properly resourcing the public bodies which enforce them.

Join our campaign and help us send a signal to the government: as we rebuild after Covid-19, please keep our standards strong.

Join the campaign