EU countries under fire over PCBs

European Commission to warn 14 of 15 member states of likely court action over 1996 directive

Almost all the EU's member states are failing to tackle pollution from toxic polychlorinated biphenyls (PCB), the European Commission said today. The Commission is to send formal warnings to 14 of the 15 EU members that they will face court action unless they implement a 1996 directive aimed at reducing the levels of PCBs in consumer goods. Only Finland has implemented the law satisfactorily, it says.

PCBs are toxic, persistent in the environment, and accumulative in living tissues. Their manufacture has been banned in the EU and they can now only be used in restricted circumstances. But quantities of PCB are still widespread in various electronic products and some coatings, lubricants and adhesives.

Under the directive, member states should have produced inventories of equipment containing PCB volumes above five cubic decimetres and drawn up decontamination or disposal programmes to deal with them by September last year. They also have to send the Commission outline plans of how they will collect and dispose of all other products containing PCBs which are not on the inventory. The law's aim is to "eliminate PCBs entirely".

The Commission says that although a number of states have sent it "certain information" contributing towards the directive's requirements, only Finland has fully complied with them. The other 14 governments will be sent a "formal notice" of legal action - the first of two warning letters that the Commission must deliver before it can launch actions in the European Court of Justice.

Follow Up:
European Commission, tel: +32 2 299 1111; see also press release IP/00/383 dated 14 April on Rapid.

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