Firms attack "unjustified" EU lead curbs

General prohibition in EU draft directives lacks risk assessment, study group claims

An international forum for lead and zinc producer and consumer countries has expressed concern over escalating moves to curb the use of certain metals in manufacturing industry. Meeting last Friday in London, the International Lead and Zinc Study Group said the "rapidly growing tendency" for governments and intergovernmental bodies to impose restrictions, in particular on lead, was worrying and unwarranted. Particular mention was made of the EU's draft end-of-life vehicles directive (ENDS Daily 8 March), which is likely to restrict the use of lead in new cars from 2003, with some exemptions for certain alloys with low lead content. The group's objection lies in the fact that the continued use of lead is currently termed as an exemption from a proposed general prohibition, without any risk assessment having been undertaken to justify a ban. According to Dr David Wilson, chair of the working group's environment committee, its opposition is a "matter of principle" to a political decision in which EU procedures to assess the potential risks had apparently not been followed. Similar concern was raised over provisions for a ban on lead in the proposed electronic and electrical waste directive. However, the group welcomed the EU's "more constructive approach" to zinc, praising the "active dialogue" maintained with the industry during a risk assessment of the metal being carried out in the Netherlands.

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