EARTH Thailand

NGOs seek to overturn lead pigments authorisation

Chemical Watch 27 October 2016

Decision is 'incompatible' with EU's international commitments

A group of NGOs are contesting the European Commission’s Decision to authorise the use of two lead chromate pigments.

Environmental law group, ClientEarth, the European Environmental Bureau (EEB), ChemSec and International POPs Elimination Network (Ipen), are using powers granted to NGOs under the UN Aarhus Convention to conduct a formal review of the Commission’s decision.

The Commission has 12 weeks to respond. If this is “unsatisfactory”, the case will be taken to the European Court of Justice, say the NGOs.

Authorisation has been granted to Canadian company Dominion Colour Corporation (DCC), for the pigments Red 104 and Yellow 34. These cover a wide range of uses in industrial coatings, plastics and road markings.

According to their mandatory classifications, both substances are carcinogenic, reprotoxic and toxic to aquatic life.

Tatiana Santos, senior policy officer at the EEB says other paint companies, including major firms in Europe, have already stopped using lead in paint and support the ban.

“We are outraged that a Canadian company is single-handedly fighting to continue the use of lead pigments in paint," she adds.

ClientEarth lawyer Alice Bernard says that DCC has “failed to show that the toxic pigments in their paint could not be replaced with safer ones – a key legal test”.

“The Commission has admitted this but granted the authorisation anyway. Why is it looking the other way, allowing the rules to be broken and people’s health to be put at risk?”

The group also says that providing authorisation to one company creates a competitive disadvantage. Businesses, they say, investing in safer alternatives should “not be undermined by companies that do not”.

ChemSec policy advisor Frida Hök adds that “authorisations like this disfavour producers and users of alternatives to these dangerous chemicals and moves REACH in the wrong direction.”

In addition, they say the decision is incompatible with the EU’s international commitments to prevent children’s exposure to lead paints and to minimise occupational exposure.

Last year, government officials from across the globe, meeting in a major UN chemicals summit, agreed a resolution which urges countries to consider adopting rules banning the use of lead in paint.

Ipen’s Dr. Sara Brosché says “this illegitimate authorisation completely undermines EU chemicals regulation and the global effort to eliminate lead paint and needs to be recanted”.

A Commission spokesperson told Chemical Watch that it will examine the arguments made in the request and will respond within the deadline.

According to the Commission's Decision, for the industrial application of paints on metal surfaces or as road marking, and the professional use in hot-melt road marking, the review period expires on 21 May 2019. For the other uses applied for, the review period ends on 21 May 2022.

ClientEarth is also contesting the Commission's Decision to allow the use of the phthalate DEHP in recycled PVC until 2019.