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EU ministers restrict cadmium use in PVC

EU ministers restrict cadmium use in PVC
The European Union (EU) Council of Ministers has passed rules further restricting the marketing and use of cadmium in PVC because of health and environmental concerns.

The new rules have been written into the EU’s Reach chemical control regulation. A council communiqué said the reforms had been approved “to take account of the conclusions of recent scientific studies showing the need to supplement the existing REACH provisions on cadmium with the aim to further increase the protection of human health and the environment”.

The changes have been fast-tracked through the EU’s decision-making process – they could be held up if the European Parliament lodges an objection – but this is not expected. The also ban the use of cadmium in concentrations greater than 0.01% by weight in costume jewellery, beads, hair accessories, brooches and cufflinks, all of which can also include plastics.

As regards PVC, the new regulations ban the sale in the EU of such plastics where cadmium content is greater than 0.01 % by weight of the plastic material. That said, there is an exemption for plastic mixtures manufactured from waste containing PVC – with the new regulation quoting a higher 0.1% limit for certain construction products – although these would have to be a labelled with a pictogram warning that they were made with waste PVC (although not that they could contain cadmium).

These include profiles and rigid sheets for building; doors, windows, shutters, walls, blinds, fences, and roof gutters; decks and terraces; cable ducts; pipes for non-drinking water if the recovered PVC is used in the inner layer of a multilayer pipe insulated with non-cadmium PVC (or up to 0.01% content). There is a six month cooling off period for sales of all PVC sales after the rule comes into force – which could happen as early as April.