EU proposes stripper ban

Plans to ban the public from buying toxic paint strippers and restrict their use in industry have been drawn up by European Union chiefs.

The European Commission wants to introduce Europe-wide regulations on the use of paint removers containing dichloromethane.

The chemical produces a vapour that can cause headaches and dizziness, and in high concentrations can lead to unconsciousness or even death.

It is present in paint strippers used in industry, but also in those sold in DIY stores to consumers who are unlikely to understand the risks.

EU studies into the risks of dichloromethane found that between 1989 and 2007 a significant number of fatalities and accidents were recorded in EU states when paint strippers were used in unventilated areas or with inappropriate personal protective equipment.

Commission Vice-President Günter Verheugen, who is responsible for enterprise and industry policy, said: “Our proposal will achieve a high level of protection of human health and will provide an important measure of added safety for consumers and workers.”

The Commission’s proposals would ban the use of paint strippers containing dichloromethane by consumers, who are perceived to be most at risk.

It will also be banned for professionals operating outside industrial premises, although Member States can opt to allow further use under licence.

The new regulations would also increase the protection of workers during industrial use through compulsory use of protective equipment such as gloves and masks, and adequate ventilation.

The health and safety department of the European Trade Union Institute – the research body of the European Trade Union Confederation (EUTC) – said it welcomed the proposal but thought the ban should be extended as dichloromethane has been linked to cancer.

A spokesperson told edie: “Alternative substances, not dangerous or less dangerous to health, exist.

“There is no obstacle to substitute dichloromethane for other less toxic substances in all workplaces. We believe the ban should be extended to all workplaces.”

Several EU states, including Germany, have already put national measures in place to control the use of dichloromethane in paint strippers.

The Commission’s proposals will have to be formally adopted by the European Parliament and Council later this year before they become law.

Kate Martin

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