HEAL | The indisputable case for an EU hazard classification of lithium salts as known reprotoxicants
In July this year, the hazard classification of three lithium salts was discussed in a meeting of the CARACAL expert group, which brings together representatives from EU member states, the European Commission and stakeholders. Shockingly, industry representatives used this meeting to bring up misplaced arguments in opposition to the proposed classification, including socio-economic considerations which have no place in scientific discussions about hazard classifications.
The three lithium salts in question – lithium carbonate, lithium chloride and lithium hydroxide – are mainly used in the batteries, glass and construction industries. In 2019, ANSES, the French health and safety regulatory agency, started the EU hazard classification process of these substances by submitting a proposal to the RAC, based on scientific evidence of developmental toxicity and effects on fertility.
HEAL welcomed the French proposal, underlining the transparent reporting about the strength of the various studies investigated. Following a public consultation and several committee discussions, in September 2021 the RAC released an opinion in favour of a classification of the compounds as known reprotoxicants (‘toxic for reproduction 1A’) under the EU regulation on the classification, labelling and packaging of chemicals (CLP). It is now for the European Commission to give the final green light on this proposal, after consultation with CARACAL experts.
The CLP classification process is a purely scientific process to identify the intrinsic properties of chemical substances that are put on the market and ensure proper labelling and information throughout supply chains towards workers as well as towards the public. The classification does not translate in any restrictions or bans. Regulators use it and refer to it when taking risk management measures under other legislations (for example, REACH), whereby they balance numerous considerations (including exposure and socio-economic aspects) that cannot and should not be anticipated at the time of the classification discussion.
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