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Biocidal products : Commission reports to European Parliament about implementation of EU regulation

Biocidal products : Commission reports to European Parliament about implementation of EU regulation The European Commission recently reported to the European Parliament about the implementation of the European Regulation of biocidal products ("BPR"). First applied in 2013, this regulation is the EU legislative framework for authorizing substances with biocidal properties "literally "killing life" properties as its Greek etymology shows). Its scope cover everyday products suchs as rodenticides and pest control products, insecticides (repellents and attractants, etc.), disinfectants (for human hygiene such as now famous had disinfectants made popular with the Covid-19 epidemics or animal hygiene products), water treatment products, antifouling products, treated articles (textiles, wood, paints, etc.). WECF, which has been following this regulation for years, and is observer at EU competent authorities meetings, shares its views on the report.

Read Commission’s report (English)

General comments on the regulation of biocides

  • The EU Biocidal Products Regulation implementation should be seen in the general context of reliance and dependence of the EU to toxic chemicals. Indeed most of the time, no consideration is made of the wider picture, when it comes for instance to the usefulness of certain biocidal treated articles (textiles impregnaed with biocidal substances disseminated in the water when washing, etc.). Supporting non-chemical and non-toxic alternatives should clearly be strengthened.
  • The general absence of knowledge from the general public on the intrinsic hazardous properties of biocidal products has to be taken into account, as shown by the number of poisoning incidents, esp. with children ingesting products. A global public awareness raising campaign would be most welcome.
  • As any other EU legislative instrument, the Biocidal Products Regulation is a good legal framework for regulating hazardous chemicals, depending on the interpretation of its provisions, as for any other chemical regulation – where “guidance” of the Commission or ECHA are most important.

Unacceptable gaps on information on biocides’ impacts on ecosystems

The Commission :  » However no information was provided by Member States on adverse environmental effects, due to the difficulty for Member States to gather this type of data for the first reporting ».

The fact that member states did not provide information on adverse environmental effects of biocides, whereas the regulation which entered in application in 2013, and the report is released in 2021, is but a proof that there is still a major gap in surveillance of adverse effects of biocidal products (or other hazardous chemicals) on ecosystems (in a wide sense), especially when we think about the risk of bacteria becoming resistant to biocides linked to a misuse/massive use of certain types of biocidal products (already identified in 2009 by EU authorities).

The Commission : “ The execution of the Review Programme still remains affected by significant delays […] main factors … as causing the delays are : insufficient resources available, delays by applicants in submitting additional data required by Member States during the evaluation, complex technical questions on specific dossiers, … adoption of the new scientific criteria for the determination of endocrine-disrupting properties”

  • The huge delay on the completion of the Review Programme is totally unacceptable, allowing biocidal products potentially hazardous for health or the environment to stay on the market.
  • This is contrary to the principle of a high level of protection of health and environment, a EU principle contained in the EU Treaties.
  • The choice of never-ending postponements of authorization of products containing substances not reviewed in due time is totally unacceptable, and both the Commission and Member States are responsible for this.
  • Member States should simply apply the regulation : no additional data submitted means a product not authorized (and not postponing authorization while compiling the data).  
  • The argument of new Endocrine Disrupting properties should also be rejected, since this adaptation was long due and planned.

Section on « Exclusion and substitution criteria » (criteria which prevent highly hazardous products to be placed on the market… except if derogations granted)

  • The case of rodenticides is a good example of a whole category product when the derogation becomes the rule: any time the question arises in competent authorities meeting, for this product family, which is a very touchy issue, no data on the tonnage used in each EU country are being shared or made public, neither information on resistance subsequent to an overuse of the same molecules over time.
  • The example of biocidal products which are hazardous to bees, and containing substances banned for use in plant protection products because of bees hazard is problematic. One argument is that the quantities of biocidal products used are ridiculous compared to that of pesticides (plant protection products), and not disseminated widely in the environment, consequently creating a very limited or « acceptable » risk. A simple mention of a “ bees hazard” on the label is currently discussed.

Section on treated articles : a scope / definition issue

  • The definition of a treated article (where the biocidal treatment is a secondary property of the article) vs a biocidal product (where the biocidal treatment is the first property of the product) can lead to never-ending discussions during certain meetings.
  • Since the report was drafted before Covid-19 crisis outbreak, the current issue of face masks potentially considered as “treated articles” and potentially containing a non-authorized biocidal active substance ((nano)graphene) is not mentioned, whereas this has become a very important issue now. Recalls of face masks took place in France, after first warnings from Canadian authoriteis. WECF is part of a group of NGOs which warned the European Commission on this issue. Not to mention the waste disposal issue of these products.

Section of nanomaterials : uncertainties

Knowledge gaps are certainly existing on this, due to the unprecise definition of nanomaterials, and the many possibilities offered by innovation in this field.

The Commission  » invites Member States to review the situation of the fees collected for BPR procedures with regard to the appropriateness of their level …  »

This remark on fees paid by manufacturers and producers is a most important one to ensure appropriate resources to authorities in charge of applying the provisions of this regulation, and the different evaluation steps it has to perform.