Chemicals: The EU acts to protect people and the environment from the negative effects of lead in PVC | EC PressImage by Freepik
The Commission adopted today measures to protect people and the environment from the toxic effects of lead, by prohibiting the use and placing on the market of lead in polyvinyl chloride (PVC) articles, including imports. Lead compounds are used in PVC mainly in the construction industry, for example in window profiles, pipes and tubes as well as wires and cables.
Adopted under the framework of the EU’s chemical legislation, REACH, the restriction is expected to prevent up to 8.4 tonnes of lead emissions per year, at the benefit of people’s heath, in particular for children. It will also create a level-playing field between PVC articles manufactured in the EU, which do not contain lead since 2015, and imported articles, where lead may still be present.
Items containing recycled rigid PVC can still be sold and used for a certain period, to promote recycling and save 1.5 million tonnes of CO2 emissions every year. To ensure recycling is safe, however, these items need to be completely covered by a lead-free layer, so people and the environment are protected from accidental exposure to lead.
The Commission proposal was supported by Member States in the REACH Committee in December 2022 and successfully passed the scrutiny by the European Parliament and the Council in March 2023.
The Commission will continue to work with the European Chemicals Agency on ways to limit environmental and human exposure to lead, in line with the goals of the Chemical Strategy for Sustainability and the European Green Deal.