A group of NGOs is calling on EU member states to either vote against applications to authorise various uses of chromates or back shortening the review period.
This should be a maximum of four years, they said, to allow for the availability of alternatives to be "properly assessed" as soon as possible based on REACH Article 61(2b).
Members at the REACH Committee meeting on 25 October will discuss whether to endorse separate applications by Hansgrohe, Lanxess Deutschland and REACHLaw (acting as an only representative) for use of chromium trioxide in decorative plating.
In a letter ahead of the meeting, NGOs including ClientEarth, the European Environmental Bureau and the Health and Environment Alliance (HEAL) said that societal benefits of the uses, especially decorative ones, are "highly questionable". And alternatives are "clearly available" on the market as alternative providers have stated.
According to the manifesto of the Alliance of PVD Providers submitted to the REACH Committee last September, they said, alternatives for decorative plating already exist and have been "economically and technically feasible for at least the last two years".
Functional chrome plating with decorative character is an industrial process widely used in applications including:
- cosmetics; and
- furniture and household appliances.
Member states will also discuss and possibly vote on an application by Ilario Ormezzano Sai for use of sodium dichromate:
- in repackaging for supply as a mordant in the dyeing of wool as sliver and/or yarn with dark colours in industrial settings; and
- as a mordant in the dyeing of wool as sliver and/or yarn with dark colours in industrial settings.
The NGOs said that as shown last year during the discussion of a similar application for authorisation submitted by Gruppa Colle, "safer alternatives made by Huntsman and Dystar are available on the market".
The applications "do not demonstrate that alternatives are unavailable", and therefore, they said, do not comply with authorisation requirements as established by REACH.
The group repeated calls for Echa's Socio-economic Analysis Committee (Seac) assessment of alternatives "to be improved urgently in order to ensure a level playing field for companies providing safer alternatives".
Granting these authorisations, they added, "will fuel a growing problem" of toxic chemical exposure – the leading cause of occupational cancers. "Eighty-five per cent of cases come from exposure to only ten chemical agents, including chromium. With more than 100,000 deaths per year, occupational cancers are the leading cause of death in the EU."