Fabian Demicoli

Chemicals/REACH: EU to ban cadmium in jewellery, brazing stick and all plastics

Cadmium in jewellery, plastics and brazing sticks will be banned in the EU from December 2011. High levels of the harmful substance cadmium have been found in some jewellery articles, especially in imported imitation jewellery. Consumers including children risked being exposed to cadmium through skin contact or through licking. The new legislation prohibits the use of cadmium in all types of jewellery products, except for antiques. The ban also covers cadmium in all plastics and brazing sticks, which are used to join dissimilar materials as fumes that are released during this process are highly dangerous if inhaled.

 

The ban ensures that EU consumers are better protected against exposure to cadmium, and will reduce environmental pollution from cadmium. It will be adopted as an amendment under REACH.

The new legislation prohibits cadmium in all plastic products while encouraging the recovery of PVC waste for use in a number of construction products. As PVC is a valuable material that can be recovered a number of times, the new legislation allows the re-use of recovered PVC containing low levels of cadmium in a limited number of construction products, without danger for the public or environment. In order to fully inform buyers, construction products that will be made of this recovered PVC will be marketed with a specific logo.

Cadmium is also present in brazing sticks, which are used to join dissimilar materials, and it is used for specific applications such as amateur modelling of steam engines of trains. Fumes released during the brazing process are highly dangerous if inhaled. The use of these brazing materials will be prohibited except for very specific professional uses.

Background

Cadmium is a carcinogenic substance and is toxic for the aquatic environment. In 1988 the Council adopted a resolution for an action programme to combat environmental pollution by cadmium. In the past it was used as a colouring agent or stabilizer in some plastic articles. It has been prohibited in the EU in a number of plastic articles since 1992, but was still allowed in some rigid PVC as at that time alternatives were not available on the market. Since alternatives became available the European PVC industry decided to phase out cadmium from all PVC as part of a program called "Vinyl 2010". The use of cadmium in batteries and electronics has been restricted since 2004. The new ban will be listed in Annex XVII of the REACH Regulation (Regulation No. 1907/2006 for Registration, Evaluation, Authorisation and Restriction of Chemicals).

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