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ECHA recommends authorising critical continued uses of chromium trioxide under strict conditions

ECHA/PR/16/12

ECHA’s scientific committees adopted a total of 61 positive draft or final opinions at their September meetings. These mainly concern the carcinogen chromium trioxide. The Committee’s opinions evaluate the risks of continuing use, recommending strict conditions where necessary to limit exposure to workers.

Helsinki, 23 September 2016 – In  September  ECHA’s Committees for Risk Assessment (RAC) and Socio-economic Analysis (SEAC) adopted 25 final opinions which will be sent to the European Commission and a further 36 draft opinions that will now be sent to the applicants for their comments. A few of these opinions concern other substances of very high concern, which are also carcinogenic substances.

This batch of opinions also covers the largest application for authorisation reviewed so far, submitted by a consortium of importers of chromium trioxide – called CTAC - selling the substance to a substantial part of the European chrome plating industry.

This application covers practically all uses of chromium trioxide as a treatment applied to the surface of products (formulation, ‘functional’ and ‘decorative’ chrome plating, surface treatment and tin plating for the food sector). It covers a broad range of industry sectors, such as car manufacturing, aerospace, aeronautics but also the manufacture of metals and construction equipment. This application is thus made on behalf of a vast number of downstream users who will ultimately need to individually notify that they are covered by this authorisation.

“This is a milestone opinion. ECHA’s committees recommended that the Commission grant authorisation for the six uses of the CTAC application but with a number of strong conditions. While ECHA considered that the applicants have made a case to have authorisations granted it is important to reduce the risks of this widely used carcinogen and for some uses to shorten the review period”, says Geert Dancet, Executive Director of ECHA.

Most of the uses were described by the applicants in broad terms, covering multiple processes, which made it difficult for the applicant to demonstrate low exposure for workers. For these reasons RAC’s evaluation concluded that there were ‘risk-control’ concerns for these uses. Their main recommendation to the Commission is that better defined exposure scenarios be developed and validated with further exposure measurements in the workplace, in order to ensure that the levels claimed by the applicants (less than 2 µg/m3 for most uses) are achieved.

In its opinion SEAC also recommended that the applicants provide a more detailed assessment and scope in review reports that are recommended to be submitted in seven or four years depending on the use.

Background

Chromium trioxide is imported in very high volumes and widely used in many industrial processes in Europe and around the world. As many other chromates it is classified as carcinogenic and mutagenic and some are also toxic to reproduction. Based on ECHA’s recommendation, the Commission has added these and several other substances of very high concern to the Authorisation List (Annex XIV of the REACH Regulation). These substances can only be used if the Commission grants an authorisation. The basis for their decision is the scientific opinion of ECHA’s Committees for Risk Assessment and Socio-economic Analysis.

Thus far a total of 112 applications for authorisation to use substances of very high concern have been submitted to ECHA.  These applications cover 22 substances of very high concern, whose use may only continue if an authorisation is granted. For chromium trioxide 27 applications have been submitted for 48 uses. By September 2016, ECHA’s scientific Committees have agreed on draft opinions for 130 uses and final opinions for 86 uses. These final opinions are sent to the Commission, which has thus far made decisions on 31 uses.

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