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EC approves toxic paint

European Commission faces legal challenge over toxic paint
EC approves toxic paint

The European Commission is facing a new legal challenge after it approved the use of a dangerous neurotoxic chemical for road marking and painting machinery.

Environmental lawyers ClientEarth, the European Environmental Bureau (EEB), The International Chemical Secretariat (ChemSec) and International POPs Elimination Network (IPEN) are questioning the legality of the Commission’s decision, which permits Dominion Colour Corporation to supply red and yellow lead chromate pigments in the EU.

Lead chromates are made of lead, a neurotoxin which harms the nervous system and chromium, a carcinogen causing lung tumours.

Children are particularly vulnerable to lead exposure. The health effects are generally irreversible and have a lifelong impact. Lead chromates are also extremely toxic to aquatic life.

Alternatives exist

The use of these toxic paint components has been abandoned for decades in many EU countries. In Sweden, they have not been used for 30 years.

Many paint companies publicly state that alternatives do exist and that they have been using safer ingredients for years.

‘Dominion Colour Corporation, which is a Canadian company, has failed to show that the toxic pigments in their paint could not be replaced with safer ones – a key legal test. The Commission has admitted this but granted the authorisation anyway. Why is it looking the other way, allowing the rules to be broken and people’s health to be put at risk?’

ClientEarth lawyer

The authorisation to this one company also creates a competitive disadvantage. Businesses investing in safer alternatives should not be undermined by companies that do not.

‘Authorisations like this disfavour producers and users of alternatives to these dangerous chemicals and moves REACH in the wrong direction.’

ChemSec policy adviser


The decision is also incompatible with the EU’s international commitments to prevent children’s exposure to lead paints and to minimise occupational exposures to lead paint.

‘Other paint companies, including the largest ones in Europe have already stopped using lead in paint and support the ban. We are outraged that a Canadian company is single-handedly fighting to continue the use of lead pigments in paint.’

Senior policy officer at the European Environmental Bureau

The Commission now has 12 weeks to reply to the legal challenge. If its response is unsatisfactory, the case will be taken to the European Court of Justice.

Click here to read ClientEarth’s legal challenge.

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