EU solvent risk decision "will hit industry"

Trichloroethylene makers dispute recent reclassification to "probable" carcinogen

The European chlorinated solvents association has blasted a recent EU decision to reclassify trichloroethylene as a "probable" rather than a "possible" human carcinogen. The association claimed yesterday that the move would drive precision engineering industries out of Europe.

"This is a significant change which, in our opinion, is based on the wrong science," Ecsa's André Orban told ENDS Daily today. Adopted under the EU's chemicals classification and labelling directive in January, the EU decision "stems from two small-scale German studies considered flawed by leading epidemiologists," he said.

Due to take effect EU-wide from August next year, the change will introduce stricter labelling requirements and tighter worker protection. It will also feed into a wider risk assessment process which is expected to come up with proposals for tighter restrictions on trichloroethylene (ENDS Daily 6 April).

Of more immediate significance for producers of the solvent is that under the EU's 1999 solvents directive firms will now be required to move to alternatives to trichloroethylene if they are "economically feasible". According to Mr Orban: "There is a strong possibility that specialised electronics and precision engineering firms relying on trichloroethylene for ultra-pure cleaning of high-tech products may move their products out of Europe."

Latest sales data from Ecsa show Western European trichloroethylene market volume down 4% from 1999 levels to 74,000 tonnes in 2000. Mr Orban said the decline was mainly due to increased recycling of the solvent in closed loop systems.

Follow Up:
ECSA, tel: +32 2 676 7263, and press release.

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