Issue Date: February 28, 2011
Pushing For A Phthalate
Chemical manufacturers say they will seek approval from the European Union to continue use of di(2-ethylhexyl)phthalate (DEHP), a plastic-softening phthalate that the EU is banning.
DEHP is among the first six compounds that the EU is phasing out under its Registration, Evaluation, Authorization & Restriction of Chemical substances (REACH) program. The other five substances are two more phthalates, a flame retardant, a synthetic musk, and a compound used in epoxy resins and adhesives. Sale or use of these six chemicals will cease in three to five years unless industry obtains authorization, the European Commission announced on Feb. 17.
Chemical industry organizations in the EU and the U.S. say DEHP makers, led by an unnamed European producer, will seek approval for continued use of the compound in medical, automotive, and other applications. The groups are the European Council for Plasticizers & Intermediates, which is a sector group of the European Chemical Industry Council, and the Phthalate Esters Panel of the American Chemistry Council.
To obtain authorization for use or sale of chemicals banned under REACH, businesses must demonstrate that safety measures are in place to control risks adequately or that the benefits to the economy and society outweigh the risks of using the compounds. For DEHP in the identified products, the industry groups argue, the risks to human health and the environment can be controlled.
In addition to DEHP, the ban affects benzyl butyl phthalate and dibutyl phthalate. The three phthalates are targeted because of reproductive toxicity. The EU already prohibits use of these three compounds in children’s toys.
The EU is also phasing out the flame retardant hexabromocyclododecane because the compound is persistent, bioaccumulative, and toxic. Another affected substance is 5-tert-butyl-2,4,6-trinitro-m-xylene, also known as musk xylene, which the EU characterizes as very persistent and very bioaccumulative.
The sixth chemical banned is 4,4ʹ-diaminodiphenylmethane, used in some epoxy resins and adhesives and as an intermediate in the manufacture of other products. The EU classifies this compound as a substance that should be regarded as carcinogenic to humans.
Antonio Tajani, European Commission vice president for industry and entrepreneurship, says the phaseouts of these chemicals “will encourage industry to develop alternatives and foster innovation.”
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