Four years ago, the EU Commission granted the Canada-based paint manufacturer Dominion Colour Corporation (DCC) authorisation to use toxic lead chromates in red and yellow paint pigments for a wide range of applications including industrial coatings, plastics and road markings. The decision caused an outcry among environmental NGOs, including ChemSec, and eventually led to the Swedish Government suing the EU Commission.
Now, the tale seems to be coming to an end.
According to the European Chemicals Agency (ECHA), the Canadian paint company will not reapply for permission to continue selling pigments containing lead chromates in Europe beyond May 2022, when its current authorisation expires.
When asked by Chemical Watch, a spokesperson for DCC declined to expand on the reasoning behind its decision, or to comment on whether the company will stop selling the toxic pigments globally or just in the European Union. The spokesperson also declined to say what alternatives, if any, the company will shift to.
“The use of these toxic paint components has been abandoned for decades in many EU countries”
Lead chromates are composed of lead, a neurotoxin which harms the nervous system, and chromium, a carcinogen causing lung tumours. Children are particularly vulnerable to lead exposure and the health effects are generally irreversible and have a lifelong impact. Lead chromates are also extremely toxic to aquatic life.
The use of these toxic paint components has been abandoned for decades in many EU countries. In Sweden, they have not been used for 30 years. Many paint companies publicly state that alternatives exist and that they have been using them for years.
The authorisation case turned into a landmark court judgment
For this reason, Sweden challenged the EU Commission’s decision to grant DCC authorisation to use lead chromates in paint pigments, arguing that not enough had been made to establish that there were no suitable alternatives to the toxic pigments.
Last year, the Tribunal of the EU ruled in favour of the Swedish Government, effectively retracting the authorisation which was deemed illegal.
The EU Commission filed an appeal against much of the judgment, which is now before the European Court of Justice. The court’s judgment will clarify whether DCC must stop using the lead chromates even before the current authorisation expires in May 2022.