EU round up – major EU restrictions planned on coatings chemicals

13 February 2013

The European Chemicals Agency (ECHA) has proposed that companies wanting to use five coatings chemicals must apply for special authorisation under the European Union’s (EU) REACH chemical control system.

The agency has already decided that these chemicals are substances of very high concern – potentially damaging human health or the environment and now wants to go a step further. It has asked the European Commission, working with EU member states and the European Parliament, to place them on its ‘authorisation list’. Companies have to ask ECHA permission to use such chemicals and applications receive public consultation. These coatings chemicals are mostly carcinogens, including strontium chromate – used in anti-corrosion coatings in the aeronautics/aerospace, coil coating and vehicle coating sectors; pentazinc chromate octahydroxide and potassium hydroxyoctaoxodi­zincated-ichromate – anti-corrosion coatings in the aeronautics/aerospace and vehicle coating sectors; and dichromium tris(chromate), used as an anti-corrosion surface treatment of steel and aluminium in the construction and aeronautics sectors. One chemical is listed for being toxic for reproduction, namely N,N-dimethylacetamide (DMAC) – used in industrial coatings and paint strippers.

  • Meanwhile, ECHA is continuing to assess other possible chemicals for its authorisation status and has added another 54 chemicals to its candidate list of substances of very high concern (SVHCs). These include polymer ingredient 4-(1,1,3,3-tetramethylbutyl)phenol, ethoxylated – an agency note said this chemical could inflict "probable serious effects to the environment”. Other selected chemicals included lead titanium trioxide and lead titanium zirconium oxide, both deemed toxic for reproduction.

The agency will also, this month, release a detailed report on applications from chemicals manufacturers on what substances they think have to be tested on animals because of a pack of alternative methods. ECHA wants to share such safety data to reduce the number of animals subjected to chemical safety tests.

Elsewhere, paint companies from Europe and other countries have been given the right to sue member governments of the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA) for failing to abide by COMESA trade commitments. In a case involving a Mauritius automotive paint importer Polytol Paints & Adhesives Manufacturers Co Ltd, the COMESA Court of Justice ruled that it had the right to decide whether the Indian Ocean country’s government had broken COMESA rules by levying 40% duty on imported paints from Egypt – a fellow member of COMESA.

Under the Common Market’s rules, such trades should be duty free and Polytol sought refunds from Mauritius courts – only to be told COMESA treaty commitments were not binding. It appealed to COMESA and in a landmark decision, its court has decided to hear and rule on the case, even though the duties were scrapped in 2010.

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