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A Toxics-Free Future

Commission to defend toxic pigment authorisation

José Rojo

The European Commission will have to defend its decision to authorise the use of two lead-based pigments in industrial paints following a legal challenge.

A case lodged by campaigning groups ClientEarth, EEB, ChemSec and IPEN on Wednesday seeks to quash the authorisation of lead sulfochromate yellow and lead chromate molybdate sulfate red granted to the Canadian manufacturer Dominion Colour Corporation. 

The decision by the EU executive, backed by a majority of member states last July, cleared six non-consumer uses of the pigments in paints. Both substances are classified as carcinogenic and repro-toxic under the EU’s REACH Regulation on chemicals.

Authorisation was granted for periods ranging from four to seven years for sales below a certain annual tonnage limit.

The campaigners believe that the Commission disregarded the evidence brought by other companies producing safer alternatives. The applicant’s own safety assessments did not cover risks posed to the aquatic environment, they argue.

The four groups had asked the Commission last year to reconsider its decision using an internal review, an instrument set up under the Aarhus Convention allowing stakeholders to request policy changes. However, the EU executive refused to rethink its stance in May.

The Commission must now submit a written defence of its decision to the EU General Court, followed by the first hearing in a year’s time at the earliest. The EU executive is facing a parallel challenge by the Swedish government over the authorisation.