InterviewCobalt CMR status would be 'extremely problematic' - DSM

31 October 2011 16:29  [Source: ICIS news]

By Andy Brice

LONDON (ICIS)--Efforts to classify the curing agent cobalt as a carcinogen in Europe would be extremely problematic for the composites sector, a DSM company executive said on Monday.

The industry is waiting to see whether the European Chemicals Agency (ECHA) will add cobalt octoate to its CMR (Carcinogenic, Mutagenic, Reprotoxic) 1b listing, said Wilfrid Gambade, business director of Netherlands-headquartered health, nutrition and materials company DSM Composite Resins.

Cobalt octoate - a salt used to cure resins at room temperature - is being considered by the ECHA following reviews of cobalt chloride and cobalt acetate, with the anticipated final decision expected in mid-2012. If it were awarded CMR 1b status, it could leave players facing huge costs and difficulties curing material, he said.

In expectation of a possible listing, DSM has, however, been developing curing systems for composite materials that do not use cobalt.

Currently, all resin suppliers and component manufacturers rely on cobalt if they want to cure unsaturated polyester resins (UPR) at room temperature, said Gambade. The only alternative is to cure at high temperatures, which is not only more expensive and far less energy efficient, but also in many cases not technically possible.

“If it’s listed you have two options, either you continue to use it or if you are a professional company, you will have to switch. The fact is that cobalt is the only curing system used and this will be a big challenge for our customers and for the entire market to switch,” said Gambade.

“We started developing cobalt-free technology 10 years ago as we thought this would happen. It’s very important to be able to propose a curing system which is not CMR 1b to our customers,” he said.

Gambade said the yet-to-be-named curing system is expected to be launched at the JEC Composites Show in Paris next March.

He added that DSM is teaming up with an “important player in the composite industry” to sub-license the patent and share knowledge about the new technology.

“We’re teaming up with another company who shares exactly the same philosophy in terms of innovation and sustainability,” he said.

For more on DSM visit ICIS company intelligence

By: Andy Brice
+44 20 8652 3214

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