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Europe Eyes Hazardous Lead Labeling

Thursday, January 17, 2013

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Lead paint could soon take on a new "hazardous" status throughout the 27 states of the European Union, under measures now being considered.

EU officials are considering whether all uses of lead—including its use in paints—should have special hazardous status under the REACH law.

REACH (Registration, Evaluation, Authorization and Restriction of Chemical Substances) went into effect in 2007 with the aim of reducing the environmental and health risks posed by chemicals.

Add Lead to REACH list?

While the EU stopped the sale of lead-based paint to the general public in 1992, member states can still permit the use of white lead and sulphates of lead in paint for the restoration and maintenance of historic buildings (including interiors), monuments, and fine or decorative works of art.

London Tower Bridge

Member states within the European Union may allow their historic buildings to be restored using lead-based paint. Shown is the London Tower Bridge.

Now, however, the European Chemicals Agency (ECHA) has launched a “public consultation” into whether lead should be subject to its classification and labeling system under REACH. Public comment was sought until Dec. 7, and the agency continues to examine the issue, according to a spokesperson.

If ECHA decides to add lead to the system, it will ask the European Commission to label lead as “officially hazardous to reproduction,” which would thereby mandate hazard labeling for paints containing lead across the EU, the agency announced.

Consumers would also have to be given information spelling out the health risks of using these paints, according to the agency.

"All manufacturers, importers and users of the substance in the EU should classify the substance accordingly, enabling the users to be better informed about the substance, its potential effects and how best to make use of it safely," ECHA noted.

Lead-based paint has been restricted in the U.S. since 1978. However, it can be used in limited industrial settings in the country.

New 'Substances of Very High Concern'

The European Chemicals Agency also recently announced plans to add 54 new substances to its Substances of Very High Concern list.

Some of those substances could affect companies that sell paint and coatings inside the EU, according to the American Coatings Association. The additions would bring the total number of substances on the list to 138 chemicals.

The list, updated on Dec. 19, is available here.

REACH Import in U.S.

The REACH chemical list has been a hot topic in the U.S. building industry for several months, due to the addition of the list into LEED v4, the U.S. Green Building Council’s latest version of its voluntary green-building rating system.

LEED v4 allows credits for projects that use building materials that do not contain certain “chemicals of concern” according to REACH criteria for substances of very high concern or another USGBC-approved program.

European Commission

Coating manufacturers take issue with the import of REACH criteria in LEED v4.

Importing REACH into the popular green-building standard is viewed as highly problematic by building-materials manufacturers, including the American Coatings Association, as it brings a whole new, highly complex and foreign regulatory program into the LEED picture for non-European companies, designers, specifiers, and builders.

The ACA opposed the USGBC’s incorporation of the REACH system in comments submitted Dec. 10.

Voting on the LEED v4 green-building standard (previously known as LEED 2012) has been postponed until June 2013.


Tagged categories: Coating chemistry; Lead; LEED v4; Maintenance coating work; Market; Raw materials; Regulations

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