PESTICIDE ACTION NETWORK NORTH AMERICA UPDATES SERVICE
European Union Ban on PCP Considered
September 12, 1994
The European Commission is considering proposing a
comprehensive European Union-wide ban on pentachlorophenol
(PCP) according to a report in Environment Watch: Western
Europe. This is the result of a request from Germany that
its national restrictions on the marketing and use of PCP be
allowed to remain in place even though German rules are more
stringent than existing European Union (EU) legislation.
At a July meeting, Commission staff agreed in principle that
Germany's regulations should be allowed to stand. Some aides
went on to argue that if stricter rules were justified in
Germany and alternatives are readily available, the EU should
consider bringing its regulations up to the same standard. A
report on the impacts of a EU-wide ban on PCP is scheduled to
be completed by the Commission's industrial affairs
department by the end of the year.
PCP, one of PAN International's Dirty Dozen pesticides, is
best known for its use as a wood preservative and anti-sap
stain; it is also used industrially as a fungicidal additive,
and agriculturally as an insecticide and herbicide. The
World Health Organization classifies PCP as highly hazardous
(Class Ib) based on its acute toxicity. Its toxicity is
increased substantially by impurities in various
formulations, such as chlorinated dioxins and furans.
Several European nations including Germany, The Netherlands
and Denmark have been pushing for tougher EU-wide
restrictions on PCP for some time. Others including Austria,
Sweden, Norway and Finland, which plan to join the EU next
year, would also like to see PCP more strictly regulated.
Other EU members, however, may oppose more severe
restrictions or a ban, due at least in part to higher costs
of alternatives. Despite the fact that the European
Commission is considering an EU-wide ban on PCP, the
industrial affairs directorate believes that a majority of
the Council of Ministers would not support a ban at any time
within the near future.
PCP concentrations of more than 0.1% are currently prohibited
under EU legislation, though, four uses are exempted: as a
wood preservative, for impregnation of fibers and heavy-duty
textiles, as a synthesizing and/or processing agent in
industrial processes and for specific applications to
buildings. In contrast, Germany has almost completely banned
PCP by prohibiting the use and sale of PCP and its salts,
preparations containing more than 0.01% (100 ppm) of such
substances, and treated products containing more than 5 ppm
of PCP-related substances.
It has been reported that the Commission's industrial affairs
directorate, which opposes an EU-wide ban, argue that
specific circumstances exist that warrant more severe
restrictions on PCP in Germany than in other EU countries.
According to the directorate these "specificities" include
the fact that German mothers generally breastfeed their
children longer than mothers in other EU countries,
increasing the potential for exposure to dioxins, which
accumulate in human milk. Others have argued that it is
unreasonable for the Commission to exempt Germany's national
restrictions and not to approve similar requests for
exemptions from other countries, particularly as some of the
special circumstances purportedly specific to Germany include
the fact Germany is densely populated, heavily
industrialized, has lots of rivers and experiences high
snowfall, and that the German diet includes much chicken and
The Dutch environmental non-governmental organization,
Stichting Natuur en Milieu, has led other European
environmental groups in a campaign to bring the EU
regulations in line with restrictions in Germany and The
Netherlands. The groups are focusing on banning the use of
PCP as a wood treatment in particular.
Sources: Environment Watch: Western Europe, August 5, 1994;
Dirty Dozen Fact Sheets, PANNA, 1990.
Contact: Saskia van Gool, Stichting Natuur en Milieu,
Donkerstraat 17, 3511 KB Utrecht, The Netherlands; phone (31-
30) 331 328; fax (31-30) 331 311.
The Pesticide Action Network Updates Service (PANUPS) is a
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