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The Commission greenlights authorisation to use hazardous lead pigments

Two hazardous lead pigments could be authorised for non-consumer use in July, following a draft decision issued by the Commission. The substances – lead sulfochromate yellow and lead chromate molybdate sulfate red – could be granted authorisation for use in pigment substances such as coatings and powders.

According to ECHA’s two scientific committees, RAC and SEAC, the reason for granting authorisation is lack of viable alternatives and that any potential risk associated with the substances could be limited with appropriate management.

This authorisation application, submitted by the Canadian manufacturer Dominion Colour Corporation has become somewhat of a serial, with the first committee recommendations being issued already in 2014. The application has created a lot of commotion since the final decision will set a precedent for the whole authorisation process, and NGOs as well as European Paint associations have argued that there are well known alternatives to lead pigments.

“We have serious concerns regarding this draft decision from the Commission, since lead is a very toxic metal and alternatives are available. Both the Swedish Paint and the Printing Ink Makers Association confirms that there is no need for these toxic pigments”, says Frida Hök, ChemSec Policy Advisor.

Frida Hök points out the fact that in its draft decision, the Commission claims there are uncertainties regarding alternatives for the road marking sector, where lead pigments are used.

“But at the same time the Commission states that road markings containing lead is substituted or even prohibited in some Member states. This is contradictory. Clearly there are alternatives available for this use since it’s not used in all EU member states. In Sweden for example, road marking containing lead was phased out 30 years ago.”

Furthermore, Frida Hök says this would send a signal to the industry that efforts to substitute early may be punished, which would effectively discourage early substitution efforts in the future.

“To grant authorisation in a case like this, in practice to a non-EU-manufacturer, would introduce competitive disadvantages for the EU suppliers who have already invested in a shift to alternatives, and would create a non-level playing field”, she says.

Members of the REACH Committee will discuss, and potentially vote to adopt, the draft during a meeting on 6-7 July.

Read more: ChemSec’s previous articles about lead chromates