23 Sep 2008

Dichloromethane vote: UK still 'The Dirty Man of Europe'

I have just read that the UK Government was lobbying in favour of the illegal use of dangerous substances in the European Parliament - thankfully sanity prevailed but it does make you wonder what planet they are on?? Both Tory and Labour seem intent on giving corporations a free rein...

Photo: What a great year for apples - no connection with subject of this post!

Brown's Government has claimed that it is too expensive to use alternatives to dichloromethane, a hazardous solvent used in paint-strippers, yet the calculations made in its impact assessment appear to be based on the illegal use of the substance. Here is what Caroline Lucas MEP said after the vote: “The Government's shockingly complacent approach is putting people's lives at risk, and undermining strong protection legislation from the EU. Exposure to DCM released from paint strippers is of concern for human health. According to the Commission, between 1989 and 2007, 18 fatalities and 56 non-fatal injuries have been registered in the EU. I'm therefore delighted that the majority of the Environment Committee has ignored the position of both Conservative and Labour MEPs, and voted to support the Green Party's recommendation for a complete ban on DCM for consumer and professional use."

A briefing sheet from the Health and Safety Executive makes clear that personal protective equipment should always be provided for anyone working with DCM, including "impermeable overalls, apron, footwear, long gloves and gauntlets and chemically resistant goggles or visor", as well as "respiratory protective equipment" if a maximum exposure limit is exceeded - which studies have shown is regularly the case. Such equipment is likely to cost in the region of £2000-2400, yet this cost factor is completely absent from the UK's impact assessment. In other words, DCM is only competitive because it is being systematically used in violation of worker safety legislation. A comprehensive impact assessment from 2007 from the leading impact assessors in the EU, RPA, based in the UK and commissioned by DG Enterprise, recommends a complete ban on DCM for both consumer and professional use.

Dr Lucas continued: "Any proper cost comparison of DCM versus alternatives would have to include the cost of personal protective equipment when using DCM. Such a comparison, as done in the impact assessment by the European Commission, clearly shows that DCM is not competitive against the much safer alternatives, which are widely available. The Government should be putting consumer safety ahead of corporate profit, and I call on Ministers to revisit their position, and to free the way for a European-wide ban"

Is it any wonder Britains' reputation as the "dirty man of Europe" has not shifted one bit under Labour?


Anonymous said...

Why would you ban that substance DCM, when it has been demonstrated that alternatives carry as many, if not more hazards. A ban on DCM would only encourage the use of more hazardous alternative. The best solution is in a better use of DCM by increasing the safety measures for its use (narrow-neck containers of maximum one litre, with childproof closures, better labelling, etc.).

The UK Government is right!

Anonymous said...

I work in a Chemistry lab - I use litres of DCM everyday... it is perfectly safe so long as you a) dont huff the fumes b) set fire to it c) drink it. Exposure through the skin doesnt happen - its boiling point is 39 degrees, it evaporates much quicker than it ever could be absorbed. The fumes are only dangerous in a way that any solvent fumes are dangerous (eg, nail polish remover, petrol, varnish) - I cant see how an alternative solvent will not have solvent fumes... kinda stops it being a solvent then... As for the whole it being a carcinogen, its a category 3 carcinogen meaning it "might" be a carcinogen, but theres not enough evidence for or against it to vote either way... so its a carcinogen just in case... its SAFE

Andy said...

Why use dangerous substance? Most people using the stuff are not going to pay for proper protective equipment.