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EU to assess safety of chemicals used in drinking-water pipes and taps

ECHA action arises from revised directive

by Cheryl Hogue
January 16, 2020 | A version of this story appeared in Volume 98, Issue 3

Photo shows a large drinking-water main and two workers repairing it in muddy ground.
Credit: Shutterstock
The European Union will appraise chemicals used in materials that come in contact with drinking water, such as water-main pipes.

The European Union will determine which chemicals can be used safely in materials that come in contact with drinking water, such as in pipes and other plumbing fixtures.

The European Chemicals Agency (ECHA) announced Jan. 14 that as a first step it will compile a list of chemicals that individual EU member states have determined can be used safely in these materials. ECHA says it expects to come up with a set of about 1,500 substances. The agency expects the European Commission, the EU’s executive branch, to adopt these chemicals by 2024 as safe for use in materials that come in contact with drinking water.

ECHA will then reassess all these substances, prioritizing them in part on whether they have hazardous properties.

“We will assess substances used in materials to produce, for example, water pipes and taps, and look forward to working to help improving the quality of drinking water throughout Europe,” ECHA executive director Bjorn Hansen says in a statement. The agency’s assessment will ensure that companies providing materials that contact drinking water will deal with uniform standards across the EU, he says.

Companies eventually will need to ask for a review by EU regulators if they want existing or new chemicals to be deemed safe in materials that have contact with drinking water, ECHA says.

The agency’s action stems from the EU’s revised drinking-water directive, which was agreed to in December to improve drinking-water quality and access.



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