|The European Chemicals Agency (ECHA) has issued its first recommendation for harmful chemicals that should undergo Europe’s new strict ‘authorisation’ process. The EU countries in the ECHA Member States Committee have adopted an opinion supporting the recommendation.|
ECHA recommend that seven substances of very high concern (SVHC) should be subject to use and market access only with explicit authorisation under the EU’s REACH law. This decision, backed by member states, was further supported by environment and health public interest organisations, who hailed this an important step in the implementation of REACH, however they also call for the list of chemicals to be swiftly expanded.
ECHA proposed a priority list of seven chemicals for the first authorisation list to be issued in January 2010. These seven substances were drawn from the first so-called Candidate List of fifteen SVHCs. On 1st June, the ECHA proposal was submitted to the European Commission which will then approve the list through a commitology procedure again involving member states.
Three of the seven chemicals are officially classified in Europe as toxic to reproduction, one is officially classified as carcinogenic, and three are recognised as being persistent, bioaccumulative and toxic (PBT) or very persistent and very bioaccumulative (vPvB).
ECHA’s Member State Committee adopted the proposed list by consensus. However six national representatives raised concerns about the inclusion of the flame retardant HBCDD, arguing inclusion on the list could harm small businesses. This goes against REACH which mandates that harmful chemicals be lined up for the authorisation procedure solely on the basis of the hazards posed by their toxic properties. HBCDD has been identified as a persistent, bioaccumulative and toxic substance by an EU working group, with potential effects on the liver, brain, nervous and hormone system. Under the authorisation stage of REACH, substance producers or users will have to show that the risks of a particular use can be adequately controlled, or for certain chemicals, that there are overwhelming socioeconomic benefits to the substance’s use (that outweigh the health and environment risks)and that no alternatives exist. Failing these, the use will be banned.
The committee did not support ECHA’s proposals to exempt four chemicals - MDA, DEHP, DBP and BBP- from obtaining authorisations– when used in artists’ paints, Three chemicals DEHP, DBP and BBP, phthalates or plastic softeners, are already banned in toys and childcare articles in the EU. Medical devices containing DEHP must also be labelled according to the revised European Medical Devices Directive. These phthalates (which become more powerful when present simultaneously), are examined in a recent report on male reproductive health disorders. The existing knowledge about the contribution of phthalates to human testicular disorders points to the need to reduce people’s exposure to phthalates, especially pregnant women.
The Committee also rejected the proposal by industry to exempt short-chain chlorinated paraffins (SCCPs) from the need to obtain an authorisation when used in mixtures at a concentration at or lower than 1%. SCCPs have persistent, bioaccumulative and toxic properties
|The seven prioritised substances are:|
• musk xylene (vPvB). A fragrance enhancer which is used for example in detergents, fabric softeners and fabric conditioners;
• 4,4`-diaminodiphenylmethane - MDA (carcinogenic). A hardener which is used for example in epoxy resins and adhesives;
• short chained chlorinated paraffins - SCCPs (PBT and vPvB). A substance mostly used as flame retardant and/or plasticiser in various applications such as high performance rubber, sealants, paints or textile coating;
• hexabromocyclododecane - HBCDD (PBT). A flame retardant which is used for example in polystyrene, which is then further processed for the production of insulation panels/boards or packaging products, and in textile applications;
• bis(2-ethylhexyl)phthalate - DEHP (Toxic to reproduction). A plasticiser which is used in a wide range of Poly Vinyl Chloride and other polymers applications, such as for example flooring, roofing, coated fabrics, medical devices or primary packaging of medicinal products, as well as in various preparations such as for example sealants, adhesives and inks;
• benzylbutylphthalate - BBP (Toxic to reproduction). A plasticiser which is used for example in polymer products, and in particular in PVC for flooring applications, in textile and leather coating, as well as in various other preparations such as sealants, coating and inks or adhesives;
• dibutylphthalate - DBP (Toxic to reproduction). A specialist plasticiser which is used in various polymer (PVC/non-PVC) applications (such as floor covering or primary packaging of medicinal products), and as a component of various preparations such as adhesives or paints.
Written on 5 June 2009.