EU cadmium in fertilisers policy "on track"

Scientists' criticism of assessment protocol based on misunderstanding says Commission official

A deadline for resolving one of the last remaining environmental policy discrepancies between the EU and its three most recent members will be met despite a critical report just released by a key scientific committee, a European Commission official said today.

In its opinion, the EU scientific committee on toxicology, ecotoxicology and environment (Cstee) calls for "major revisions" to a protocol designed to help member states determine health risks from exposure to fertiliser-derived cadmium. But a Commission official told ENDS Daily that the scientists had misunderstood the protocol and in any case had no standing in the process.

When they joined the EU in 1995, Sweden, Finland and Austria were allowed to retain strict national controls on cadmium in fertilisers while the EU considered whether to raise harmonised standards to their levels. The issue is now pressing. Most other discrepancies between the three countries and existing EU members were resolved by 1998 and a decision on cadmium in fertilisers is due before 2002 (ENDS Daily 5 July).

The Commission decided to ask member states for risk assessments focusing on human exposure to fertiliser-derived cadmium. In order to guarantee quality, a protocol for the assessments was commissioned from UK-based consultancy Environment Resources Management and distributed to member states in March.

It is this protocol which the Cstee has criticised, saying that while "it may be useful" for exposure assessment, it is not adequate for risk assessment purposes. However, a Commission official told ENDS Daily that exposure assessment was precisely what the protocol was designed to support and that the Cstee had misunderstood this. The official said that the Cstee's opinion would not hamper ongoing work by member states. "We will have something on the table that will be a serious [policy] option in time," he said, adding that member states were due to submit assessments by the end of the month.

Follow Up:
European Commission, tel: +32 2 299 1111;

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