The European Union will phase out the use of three phthalates, a flame retardant, a synthetic musk, and a compound used in epoxy resins and adhesives. The move, announced Feb. 17 by the European Commission, marks the first time the EU has banned substances under its Registration, Evaluation, Authorization & Restriction of Chemicals (REACH) program.
Sale or use of the six chemicals will cease in three to five years unless a company obtains authorization from the commission. To use or sell any of these substances, a business would have to 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 compound.
The phase out affects three plastic softening chemicals: bis (2-ethylexyl) phthalate; benzyl butyl phthalate; and dibutyl phthalate. They are targeted because of reproductive toxicity. The EU already prohibits use of these three phthalates in children's toys.
The regulation also bans the flame retardant hexabromocyclododecane because the compound is persistent, bioaccumulative, and toxic. Another affected substance is 5-tert-butyl-2,4,6-trinito-m-xylene, also known as musk xylene, which the EU characterizes as very persistent and very bioaccumulative.
The sixth chemical banned is 4,4'-diaminodiphenylmethane, used in some epoxy resins and adhesives and as an intermediate in the manufacture of other substances. The EU classifies this compound as a substance which should be regarded as carcinogenic to humans.
"Today's decision is an example of the successful implementation of REACH and of how sustainability can be combined with competitiveness," says Antonio Tajani, European Commission vice president for industry and entrepreneurship. "It will encourage industry to develop alternatives and foster innovation."
"The substances included in the list, which have been on the table for many years, reflects ongoing discussions by regulatory authorities and industry," the European Chemical Industry Council (CEFIC) says. "CEFIC provides advice to industry to help understand the science-based process, which we monitor, should they decide to go forward to seek authorization for listed substances," it adds.