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Cancer-causing PAHs in clay targets need an EU-wide ban


ECHA’s Committee for Risk Assessment (RAC) supports the proposal to restrict polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) in clay targets for shooting. The restriction aims to prevent further environmental emissions of these toxic and very persistent substances that build up in humans and animals. Many PAHs are also known to cause cancer.

Helsinki, 20 September 2022 – RAC has adopted its opinion on ECHA’s proposal to restrict the placing on the market and use of substances containing PAHs in clay targets for shooting. The proposed restriction introduces a 0.005 % weight by weight concentration limit for the sum of 18 indicator PAHs after a one-year transition with a 1 % concentration limit. PAHs are contained in binders used to produce clay targets.

The committee considered that the restriction proposal is clear and well justified. Although the European Commission had previously refused an authorisation for one of the PAH-containing binders – coal tar pitch, high temperature (CTPHT) – environmental pollution could still continue from imported products and clay targets manufactured with other binders containing PAHs, such as petroleum pitch. This supports the need for further risk management.

“At least 270 tonnes of PAHs per year are estimated to be released to the environment from PAH-containing clay targets. And these are shattered by the gunshot into the open environment with little possibility of applying risk management measures. The proposed restriction will reduce the identified risks by 99 % in a reasonable timeframe,” says Tim Bowmer, Chair of the RAC, in a new episode of the Safer Chemicals podcast.

In addition to the environmental risks, RAC considers that a restriction is justified as it will reduce exposure and related cancer risk for workers and the public handling and shooting clay targets.

The Committee for Socio-Economic Analysis (SEAC) also supports the restriction in its draft opinion. The committee considers that the proposal is the most appropriate EU-wide measure to address the identified risks, taking into account the proportionality of its benefits and costs to society. However, the proposed one-year transition period with a higher concentration limit might not be necessary. The 60-day consultation of the draft opinion is open until 14 November 2022.

“We are looking for information specifically on the transition costs and the availability of eco-resins,” says María Ottati, Chair of the SEAC. The committee is expected to adopt its opinion in December 2022.

Other outcomes of the September meetings:

  • SEAC adopted its final opinion on ECHA’s restriction proposal on 2,4-dinitrotoluene (2,4-DNT) as an appropriate EU-wide measure to address the identified risks while taking into account the benefits and costs to society. The proposal limits the placing on the market and use of 2,4-DNT in consumer and professional products. 2,4-DNT may cause cancer and has been on the REACH Authorisation List since 2011.
  • The committees agreed on 11 draft opinions and adopted two opinions on applications for authorisation for chromium trioxide.
  • RAC adopted nine opinions on harmonised classification and labelling, including on several borate salts.

More about these topics can be found in the annex. Listen also to our podcast, where committee chairs Tim Bowmer and María Ottati share their reflections on some of the meeting topics.