How do we reduce the toxicity of preschool flooring? RISE runs the new Substitution Centre, a resource to inform and advise on reducing the use of problematic chemicals in society.
The centre is intended to provide support and a forum for both the private and public sectors and offers a wide range of knowledge in the form of researchers as well as communicators, either in-house or associated with the centre. As the name suggests, the Substitution Centre works to phase out the use of hazardous chemicals by replacing them with less problematic substances, materials or methods. Gudrun Bremle has been director of the centre since May 2018.
“The initiative for the centre initially came from the Swedish Chemicals Agency, where the need for support on this issue had not gone unnoticed. A government enquiry had also demonstrated a broad requirement and opportunities to provide assistance. It is generally difficult to assimilate all of the necessary knowledge and know how to react, both in the private and public sectors,” says Gudrun Bremle.
Problematic PVC flooring in preschools
One example is the presence of a particular plasticiser in PVC flooring used in preschools. This substance is toxic and can penetrate, and potentially damage, our cells. What alternative materials or plasticisers could be used instead? The Substitution Centre may not always have the answer but can act to identify a solution. At times, the centre acts as a coordination centre to bring stakeholders together.
“Perhaps Mediumsized Business #1 knows more about how to replace a chemical than Medium-sized Business #2, and they can then share their knowledge and create a network.”
Goal to increase knowledge of hazardous chemicals
Gudrun Bremle and her colleagues area also tasked with providing training and communication on the issue of substitution.
“We have received an appropriation from the Government to cover four years of initial operation. One possible goal during this period is to place this issue on the agenda through communication and increased knowledge. Hazardous chemicals can be a sensitive issue and work to replace them can often be drawnout and expensive.”
The Substitution Centre has already garnered international attention, with the EU looking to Sweden as a good example.
“This is extremely positive, it’s great to see RISE driving this issue. We would also like to exchange experiences with the rest of Europe and worldwide. Once again, there is a great deal we can learn from one another,” says Gudrun Bremle.