European Commission to Ban Cadmium In Plastics, Jewelry Starting Late December

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BRUSSELS—The European Commission May 20 adopted an amendment to the REACH chemicals law to ban the use of cadmium in jewelry and plastics, adding new restrictions on the use of the toxic metal.

The amendment, which will come into force Dec. 20, also will outlaw cadmium in brazing alloys, which are used in a process similar to soldering.

The Commission said the measure was aimed in particular at rigid PVC (polyvinyl chloride) products such as window frames and guttering, in which cadmium is used as a colorant or stabilizer. PVC manufacturers have developed alternatives and already are phasing out use of the toxic metal, the Commission said.

One exemption would permit the use of low levels of cadmium in recycled PVC products to help avoid the material going to landfills or being incinerated, according to the amendment.

The use of cadmium in the European Union already is subject to a number of restrictions, for example in paints and consumer goods, which are listed in Annex XVII of REACH (Regulation (EC) No. 1907/2006 on the registration, evaluation, and authorization of chemicals). Cadmium also is banned from electrical and electronic products under the Restriction of Hazardous Substances (RoHS) Directive (2002/95/EC).

The process to restrict cadmium in plastics and jewelry was started in 2007, before the REACH law took effect. Restriction proposals are now overseen by the European Chemicals Agency.

By Stephen Gardner