Polarised reactions to Danish lead phase-out

Industry "extremely disappointed," while Greenpeace hails Auken decision to "do the right thing"

A trade association representing lead-using industries said today it was "extremely disappointed" by Denmark's confirmation yesterday of plans to introduce a wide-ranging ban on the heavy metal (ENDS Daily 14 November). But Greenpeace Denmark has applauded environment minister Svend Auken's move, which it said was "the right thing to do" and would leave defenders of lead "fighting an uphill battle".

Denmark notified its intentions to ban lead to other EU member states in late 1998 (ENDS Daily 15 March 1999). The move will require a virtual phase-out of the metal by 2004 in domestic manufacture of products such as PVC plastic and some automotive components and processes. Several aspects of the plan have now been modified following talks with EU governments and industry groups.

Andrew Bush of the Lead Development Association International told ENDS Daily that, despite these changes, Denmark had still failed to meet criticisms of its initial plans levelled by EU scientists this summer. The scientific committee on toxicology, ecotoxicology and the environment (Cstee), decided that the ban was not scientifically justified and would not significantly reduce general population lead burdens (ENDS Daily 7 June).

But a Danish environmental protection agency official defended the phase-out, claiming that the government had carefully considered EU internal market rules and believed that the plan met legal requirements.

The official said that, by restricting the number of Danish-manufactured products containing lead, the tonnage of such products going landfill or incineration would more than halve. Some 6,000 tonnes of lead-containing end-of-life products per year were currently not recovered, he said, with PVC construction waste making up a large proportion. Under the proposals, only 2,500 tonnes would still not be recovered by the end of 2004.

Following discussions with industry, the government had extended some phase-out timetables and introduced several exemptions, the official added. For instance, lead in vehicle brake pad linings will not be phased-out until 2004, while the use of lead as a stabiliser in PVC would be phased out gradually. Lead in PVC window frames and doors would be banned from the end of 2001, but lead in PVC roof tiles would be allowed until 2003.

Follow Up:
Danish environment ministry, tel: +45 33 92 76 00; Lead Development Association International, tel: +44 20 74 99 84 22; Greenpeace Denmark, tel: +45 33 93 86 60.

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