Denmark becomes first country in the world to prohibit lead use

The Danish Government has announced that it will ban the use of lead in a range of products to achieve a one third drop in consumption over the next few years.


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The Ministry of Environment and Energy announced the move on 14 November, defying opposition from a majority of EU countries and from the EC’s chief scientific committee, a spokesperson told edie. Environment minister Svend Auken said in a statement that the pioneering restrictions would also apply to cadmium, mercury and nickel, which was “in line with our declared goal of limiting the use of heavy metals as much as possible”.

The ban will take effect in March for many products, but will take several years for others, which may not yet have a viable substitute in the marketplace. Auken’s executive order phases out lead as a component in items from roofing materials to cable sheeting and fishing equipment. The reason for the ban is that traces of lead can damage children’s learning abilities, intelligence and behaviour, the statement said.

According to official data, Denmark uses some 18,000 tonnes of lead per year, 12,000 tonnes of which is recycled. The aim of the executive order is to cut annual use to 12,000 tonnes and increase recycled lead to 83% of the total, the spokesperson said. Although all the lead in Denmark is imported, processing, which is covered by the ban, is mostly done in the country, meaning that adherence to the new rules can be monitored, she added. Among the lead products to be banned, at present, lead in the construction industry accounts for about one third of the total used nationwide, fishing equipment and cable makers about 10% each and the plastics industry some 6%.

Environmentalists have applauded the move, but the Scientific Committee on Toxicology, Ecotoxicology and Environment of the European Commission (CSTEE) has argued that the ban will be scientifically unjustified. “The Danish authorities have not provided sound scientific evidence to demonstrate that the introduction of a general ban on the use of lead products would result in a significant additional reduction in the body burdens of lead of the general population,” the CSTEE found. The committee concluded that the negative implications of products on the market, containing lead is “probably small” and that Danish data on the subject is “very limited”.

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