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Päivi Jokiniemi and Paul Trouth
Article related to: News from ECHA
Committee for Socio-economic Analysis opinion on restrictions
SEAC: "Restricting the use of dimethylfumarate (DMFu) in articles is justified from a socio-economic point of view".
At its meeting in Helsinki 14-16 on June 2011, the Committee for Socio-economic Analysis (SEAC) adopted its opinion on a restriction of DMFu in articles and agreed on draft opinions on restrictions concerning mercury in measuring devices and phenylmercury compounds.
In its first opinion, SEAC concluded that restricting the use of DMFu in articles is the most appropriate Community-wide measure and that it is justified from a socio-economic point of view. For its opinion, the Committee took into consideration the comments that had been received during the public consultation. The proposal to restrict the use of DMFu in articles was submitted by France and ECHA´s Committee for Risk Assessment (RAC) adopted its opinion on the proposal in March 2011.
Alternatives available for mercury in measuring devices
SEAC concluded, in its draft opinion on mercury in measuring devices, that there are technically and economically feasible alternatives available for these devices.
The scope of the original restriction proposal made by ECHA was slightly modified; SEAC proposed to also restrict the placing on the market of mercury-in-glass thermometers used in industrial applications for temperature measurements above 200°C.
Furthermore, as a result of the public consultation, SEAC supported a restriction on the placing on the market of mercury strain gauges instead of restricting the placing on the market of plethysmographs designed to be used with mercury strain gauges. The draft opinion of SEAC was published for public consultation and the final opinion is scheduled to be adopted in September 2011.
Phenylmercury compound restriction: further reduction of the use of mercury
SEAC supports in its draft opinion the restriction, proposed by Norway, on five phenylmercury compounds used as catalysts in polyurethane systems: phenylmercury acetate, phenylmercury propionate, phenylmercury 2-ethylhexanoate, phenylmercuric octanoate, and phenylmercury neodecanoate. The restriction of these five phenylmercury compounds was seen as the most appropriate Community-wide measure and that the Committee's action is justified from a socio-economic point of view.
SEAC also concluded that the restriction should enter into force with a delay of five years after its adoption, in order to allow for the substitution of the substances and processes. As foreseen by REACH, the draft opinion of SEAC was published for public consultation, with the final opinion scheduled to be adopted in September 2011.
The inclusion of DMFu in articles is controlled by a temporary ban until 15 March 2012. This ban requires the EU Member States to ensure that articles containing DMFu are not placed or made available on the market (Commission Decision of 17 March 2009, prolonged by Commission Decisions 2010/153/EU and 2011/135/EU). The ban was introduced due to several reports in many of the Member States concerning severe skin reactions (dermatitis) in consumers exposed to DMFu in articles, such as leather sofas and shoes. DMFu is used as an anti-moulding agent in articles. The French restriction proposal is aiming to make the temporary ban permanent. The scope and conditions of the proposed restriction, which are now supported by ECHA's scientific committees (RAC and SEAC), are the following:
- Articles or any parts thereof containing DMFu in concentrations greater than 0.1 mg/kg are prohibited from being produced and placed on the market in the EU.
- The restriction should apply to all types of articles containing DMFu.
- Manufacturing and import of the substance (DMFu) itself is not included in the restriction proposal.
Mercury in measuring devices
At the request of the European Commission, ECHA has reviewed the availability of safer alternatives to measuring devices containing mercury and, as a result, prepared a restriction report proposing to restrict mercury in several measuring devices that are used in industrial and professional settings (thermometers, sphygmomanometers, barometers, manometers, metering devices for the determination of softening point, pycnometers and strain gauges).
Mercury in measuring devices intended for the general public is already restricted. The restriction proposed by ECHA, which is now supported by its scientific committees (RAC and SEAC), concludes that as suitable alternatives are available the measuring devices listed above could be restricted and would thus no longer be placed on the market in the EU (with some minor derogations).
Norway prepared a restriction report proposing a ban on manufacture, placing on the market and use of five phenylmercury compounds, as well as a ban on placing on the market of articles containing these substances. The proposal is now supported by ECHA's scientific committees (RAC and SEAC).
Phenylmercury compounds are mainly used in the production of polyurethane coatings, adhesives, sealants and elastomers. They are degraded in the environment and produce hazardous degradation products, which can be transformed to methylmercury. Mercury and its compounds are highly toxic to humans, ecosystems and wildlife. There is a widely recognised need to further reduce mercury emissions at an EU and global level. Action at an EU level is necessary, for a global persistent pollutant like mercury, because it causes cross-boundary problems to human health and the environment. The life-cycle of the phenylmercury compounds leads to a release of mercury into the environment corresponding to around 4-7% of the total European mercury emissions.
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Biocidal Products Committee:
26 February-1 March
Committee for Risk Assessment:
Committee for Socio-Economic
18-22 March (tentative)
Management Board meeting:
Member State Committee:
13-17 May (tentative)