EU looks into exposure to cobalt salts used in PTA, DMT and PET

07 March 2013 15:58  [Source: ICIS news]

LONDON (ICIS)--The European Chemicals Agency (ECHA) is investigating worker exposure to five toxic cobalt salts used in applications to colour polyethylene terephthalate (PET), as catalysts in the manufacture of its precursors, purified terephthalic acid (PTA) and dimethyl terephalate (DMT) and elsewhere in industry and agriculture, it said on Thursday

The European Commission will use results from the investigation to decide whether use of the chemicals should be restricted.

The salts concerned are cobalt sulphate, cobalt dichloride, cobalt dinitrate, cobalt carbonate and cobalt diacetate. They are regarded by the EU as ‘substances of very high concern’ (SVHC).

A preliminary study will look at risks associated with their use in surface treatment; as a pigment in PET plastic; as a catalyst for the production of PTA, IPA (isophthalic acid) and DMT; as catalysts in oxygen-scavenging processes; in animal feed and fertilizers; in biogas production; in culture media in biotechnology, pharmaceuticals and in vitro diagnostics; and, in humidity indicator cards, the ECHA said.

The chemicals are known carcinogens and toxic to reproduction.

The Agency has started to look at data available on the chemicals in registration dossiers presented under the Reach registration, evaluation and authorisation of chemicals scheme. It has contacted trade associations and companies from various industrial sectors concerned with the substances.

A webinar open to manufacturers, downstream users and interested third parties is being held by the ECHA on 20 March, the agency said, to explain the possible restriction procedure.

Manufacturers producing and using the cobalt sales are concerned about the EU prioritisation process.

“The prioritisation of these five salts is based on the wrong assumption of their inter-changeability: industrial processes designed for one of the salts cannot be changed to use another salt for practical and chemical reasons,” the Cobalt Reach Consortium, which represents sellers of cobalt and cobalt chemicals in the EU, says on its website.

“Most uses/applications are already covered by existing and robust EU legislation and thus should be exempted [from prioritisation for authorisation],” it adds.

By: Nigel Davis
+44 20 8652 3214

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