Brussels orders controls on paint chemicals

13 April 2012

The European Commission has ordered that six chemicals used by the paint and coatings industry must be subject to special controls because of health concerns.

Brussels has said that, in future, companies wanting to use or sell them in the European Union (EU) must secure special permission from the European Chemicals Agency (ECHA). The chemicals concerned are diisobutyl phthalate (DIBP), diarsenic trioxide, lead chromate, lead sulfochromate yellow (pigment yellow 34), lead chromate molybdate sulphate red (pigment red 104) and tris (2-chloroethyl) phosphate (TCEP). All of them can cause cancer or reproduction problems in humans, warned the European Agency for Safety and Health at Work, which noted these ‘substances…may have serious and often irreversible effects on human health and the environment’.

In future, companies wanting to use these chemicals must apply through ECHA’s special authorisation process or cease using them altogether. Specifically, DIBP is used as a gelling aid in paints. Lead chromate protects paints and varnishes against corrosion and the related pigments have been widely used in industrial coatings. Diarsenic trioxide is used as a wood preservative; an opacifier in glazes and a decolourising agent. And TCEP is an additive plasticiser and viscosity regulator.

The decision comes as ECHA is preparing to add more chemicals to its authorisation list. It has identified another 13 chemicals as ‘substances of very high concern’ in environmental health terms. The paint and coatings sector will now be asked whether it uses these substances and whether it agrees their use should be tightly controlled – see /proposals-to-identify-substances-of-very-high-concern

More will almost certainly follow. ECHA has announced that enquiries under a first ‘Community Rolling Action Plan’ assessing 90 substances suspected of posing risks to human health or the environment is now under way. Its conclusions will probably lead to ECHA identifying more candidates for its authorisation list.

q Meanwhile, ECHA has launched an amnesty for companies, which wrongly claimed to be small- and medium-sized or micro businesses to take advantage of reduced rates for companies of their size when paying fees to the agency. Penalties for false declarations would be waived if companies admitted mistakes before formal enquiries are launched by ECHA, said a spokesperson.

And the agency has released the first EU Classification and Labelling Inventory. It classifies all chemical substances (more than 100,000) used in the EU, identifying those potentially hazardous to human health and the environment. "The aim is to provide industry with easy access to information on the hazardousness of a given substance…classify and label substances and mixtures [and find] less damaging alternatives…,” said the Commission.

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