The European Commission is looking to amend hazardous waste guidance for titanium dioxide after its proposal to classify only powder forms as a category 2 carcinogen hit a fresh hurdle over waste.
The Commission is taking the action following concerns raised at the 7 March REACH Committee meeting over waste containing titanium dioxide. Notably these included: how to handle waste containing the substance when it can be in powder, solid or liquid forms.
In its latest update of the proposal from late January, the Commission restricted the classification mainly to mixtures in powder form, arguing that titanium dioxide-induced carcinogenicity is only associated with inhalation.
That resulted in delays to the substance’s CLP entry, amid accusations from NGOs that the Commission has diverged from Echa’s Risk Assessment Committee (Rac) Opinion for the classification of all forms of the substance.
The REACH Committee had been expected to decide on the issue following a stakeholder consultation earlier this year, but the vote was twice postponed due to member state concerns.
The Commission is now preparing a draft amendment of the hazardous waste guidance to clarify “whether and how to classify” waste containing titanium dioxide as hazardous, according to EU executive sources.
It aims to work with member states to achieve a solution during one of the next REACH Committee meetings, they added. The Commission expects the issue to be addressed in 2022 during the waste legislation review in the hazardous waste annex.
The next REACH Committee meeting is scheduled for 8-9 April.
The Commission’s updated proposal has faced a backlash from NGOs. In a letter prior to the 7 March meeting, they urged member states to reject the proposal, which set “a dangerous precedent” and offered derogations that “could possibly be considered illegal”. The Classification Labelling and Packaging Regulation (CLP) requires health hazards to be made on purely scientific basis.
Meanwhile, the Titanium Dioxide Manufacturers Association (TDMA) is campaigning for a different regulatory route to control the risks associated with the substance.
CLP classification is not the answer, it says, as the chemical only poses a threat if large amounts of dust particles are inhaled, which is “not a realistic scenario” under normal circumstances. Furthermore, it adds, in most downstream uses the substance is bound into another solid or mixture and not “available to inhale”.
The substance itself is non-toxic and the “lung overload effect” is not a risk for consumers, the trade body argues, noting that this was also the conclusion of experts in a Commission meeting in April 2018.
TDMA notes that Rac in its opinion had referred to different forms of the particles, not other forms of the substance such as liquids.
Since the substance is only manufactured as powder, CLP classification could result in a mismatch between risk and regulation.
“It’s a complex case that requires a different approach,” TDMA chair Robert Bird told Chemical Watch. Downstream and waste regulations do not distinguish between the different routes of exposure and if Rac’s opinion is translated into CLP “you create a lot of downstream issues that are not related to the inhalation concern.”
Other regulatory approaches, such as workplace legislation, would better address the concerns, he said. The substance is also separately regulated through the Cosmetics Regulation for personal care applications.
The Commission sources said their position has not changed and that the Commission is still pursuing classification under CLP of the powder form of the substance.
Tatiana Santos, chemicals policy manager at NGO the European Environmental Bureau (EEB) said some countries were no longer in favour of the proposal after the Commission’s latest derogations.
If approved, a decision to keep cancer warnings off labels of spray-on sunscreen, cosmetics and spray paints containing titanium dioxide would be a “flat rejection of science for commercial reasons” and a “reward” for industry lobbyists, EEB has said. It argues that the products can “end up” being inhaled.