European Commission Finalizes Ban On Six Chemicals Under REACH Law

BRUSSELS--The European Commission Feb. 17 formalized the first bans on chemicals under the European Union’s REACH law, prohibiting the use of six substances unless authorizations for specific uses of the chemicals are granted.

Under the terms of the ban, musk xylene; 4,4’-diaminodiphenylmethane (MDA); benzyl butyl phthalate (BBP); bis(2-ethylhexyl) phthalate (DEHP); dibutyl phthalate (DBP); and hexabromocyclododecane (HBCDD) must be phased out, with various sunset dates set between 2014 and 2015.

Depending on the substance, companies have between 24 and 30 months to apply for authorizations to continue to use the substances in specific applications. Requests for authorization must be accompanied by a substitution plan and evidence either that the substances can be used safely or that there is a strong socioeconomic case for their continued use. Banned substances are listed in Annex XIV of REACH (Regulation No. 1907/2006 on the registration, evaluation, and authorization of chemicals).

The formal decision to phase out the substances is the final step in a long process of consultations and studies that began in mid-2008 32 CRR 672, 7/7/08.

Phaseout Decision.

The European Union’s top environment official, Environment Commissioner Janez Potocnik, said the phaseout decision was “an important step towards better protecting our health and the environment” by limiting the use of dangerous chemicals.

The European Chemicals Agency (ECHA) in June 2009 had also proposed a ban on a seventh substance, short-chain chlorinated paraffins. However, Commission spokesman Fabio Pirotta told BNA in September 2010 that member states considered such a ban to be unnecessary because short-chain chlorinated paraffins had since been included in the United Nations' Stockholm Convention on Persistent Organic Pollutants.

The six substances entered into Annex XIV of REACH were prioritized from a “candidate list” of 46 chemicals that are considered “substances of very high concern.”

Apart from musk xylene, which is used as a fragrance in cleaning products, all of the banned substances were produced in, or imported into, the European Union in large quantities in the years for which the most recent information is available, with annual production volumes ranging from 10,000 metric tons for DBP to about 1.4 million tons for MDA, according to figures from ECHA.

BBP and DEHP are plastic softeners, while DBP is a solvent. HBCDD is a flame retardant, and MDA is used in the production of polyurethane and is a hardener for resins and solvents.

Under REACH procedures, all were nominated for bans by EU member states on account of their hazardous properties and concerns about their uses.

Probability of Ban on 'Table for Many Years.'

James Pieper of the European Chemical Industry Council, said the probability that the substances would be banned had “been on the table for many years [and] reflects ongoing discussions by regulatory authorities and industry.”

A formal proposal to ban the substances was sent to the Commission by ECHA in June 2009 (33 CRR 552, 6/1/09).

ECHA Executive Director Geert Dancet told BNA earlier in February that the agency would make recommendations to the Commission for further substance bans once per year, while processes to add substances to the candidate list for bans would be started each February and August.

Listing substances and making recommendations for bans would become “very much routine,” he said.

By Stephen Gardner