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SEAC adopts three scientific opinions on lead, mercury and phenylmercuries

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ECHA/NA/11/39
Media enquiries: ECHA Press

The Committee for Socio-economic Analysis (SEAC) has adopted opinions on three restriction proposals during its 12th meeting, held from 13-15 September 2011 in Helsinki.

Helsinki, 20 September 2011 - SEAC opinion on lead

Following the submission by France of a restriction proposal aimed at reducing children's exposure to lead, the Committee for Risk Assessment (RAC) adopted its opinion supporting France's proposal in principle but with significant modifications in March 2011. At the same time, SEAC agreed on its draft opinion, which concluded that the benefits for human health of the restriction of lead in jewellery outweigh the costs of the restriction. SEAC proposed the restriction to be based only on the content of lead in jewellery articles as it is easier to measure in practice.

Derogations for crystals and precious and semi-precious stones were proposed, as well as for jewellery more than 50 years old. The draft opinion of SEAC was submitted for public consultation for 60 days. Following the comments received, SEAC included additional derogations for vitreous enamels and non-accessible parts of watches in its opinion. The final opinion has now been adopted.

Opinions on restrictions intended to reduce the emissions of mercury

Mercury and most of its compounds are highly toxic to humans, animals and ecosystems. High doses can be fatal for humans, but even relatively low doses can seriously affect the nervous system and have been linked with possible harmful effects on the cardiovascular, immune and reproductive systems. Once released, mercury persists in the environment, where it circulates between air, water, sediments, soil and biota in various forms. In the presence of bacteria, mercury can change into methylmercury, its most toxic form, which biomagnifies especially in the aquatic food chain, making populations and wildlife with a high intake of fish and seafood particularly vulnerable. Methylmercury readily passes through both the placenta and the blood-brain barrier, so exposure to women of child-bearing age, pregnant women and children, is of greatest concern.

The restrictions proposed by ECHA on behalf of the European Commission and by Norway, are measures to further reduce mercury emissions and protect against exposure.

SEAC opinion on mercury in measuring devices

At the request of the European Commission, ECHA has reviewed the availability of safer alternatives to measuring devices containing mercury and, as a result, prepared a restriction report proposing to restrict mercury in several measuring devices that are used in industrial and professional settings (thermometers, sphygmomanometers, barometers, manometers, metering devices for the determination of softening point, pycnometers and strain gauges). RAC adopted its opinion in support of ECHA's proposal with some modifications in June 2011. At the same time, SEAC agreed on its draft opinion, which concluded that suitable alternatives to the measuring devices are available and that the restriction (with some minor derogations) is considered to be proportionate to the risks.

The draft opinion of SEAC was submitted for public consultation for 60 days. No comments were received that lead to changes to the final opinion, which has now been adopted. For clarification, one minor change was introduced to the proposed restriction.

SEAC opinion on Phenylmercury compounds

Norway prepared a restriction report proposing a ban on the manufacture, placing on the market and use of five phenylmercury compounds, as well as a ban on placing articles containing these substances on the market. Phenylmercury compounds are mainly used in the production of polyurethane coatings, adhesives, sealants and elastomers.

RAC adopted its opinion in support of Norway's proposal with some modifications in June 2011. At the same time, SEAC agreed on its draft opinion, which also supported the proposal and concluded that a restriction on the five phenylmercury compounds was proportionate.

The draft opinion of SEAC was submitted for public consultation for 60 days. No comments were received that lead to changes to the final opinion, which has now been adopted.


 

Further information

SEAC opinions

Background Information

The role of SEAC in the EU regulatory process
SEAC is responsible for preparing scientific opinions of the Agency on the socio-economic consequences of restriction proposals and applications for authorisation, taking into account the envisaged costs to society and benefits to human health and the environment. The final decisions are taken by the European Commission through a regulatory committee procedure.

Socio-economic Analysis Committee

 


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