The Swedish Government sued the EU Commission – and won



Three years ago, the Swedish Government challenged the EU Commission’s decision to grant the Canadian company Dominion Colour Corporation (DCC) authorisation to use carcinogenic lead chromates in yellow and red paint pigments.

Yesterday, the European Court of Justice ruled in favour of the Swedish Government, effectively retracting the authorisation which was deemed illegal.

Additionally, the ruling contains several guiding principles that are of very high interest to anyone interested in chemicals policy, for example:

(*) The burden to prove that the alternatives are not available is on the company applying for the authorisation;

(*) The Commission does not have the right to grant authorisation if, at the date of adoption, there are still uncertainties (that are not negligible) about the availability of safer alternatives;

(*) The Commission mustn’t necessarily follow the advice coming from the scientific committees involved in the process; the Commission is responsible for checking the coherence, relevance and accuracy of the opinions from the scientific committees;

(*) The Commission has to verify a sufficient amount of information that is substantial and reliable to be able to conclude that no suitable alternatives are available.

“This ruling is especially important as it shows that the Commission has been handing out wrongful authorisations. On a personal level, the ruling also feels a bit like a relief as many of the guiding decisions is very much in line with what ChemSec has been saying for years. We now hope that this will set a new precedent for how REACH authorisations should be handled in the future”, says Frida Hök, senior policy advisor at ChemSec.

The use of these toxic paint components has been abandoned for decades in many EU countries. In Sweden, they have not been used for 30 years, making it obvious that safer substances have been available and are commercially viable. Many paint companies publicly stated that alternatives do exist and that they have been using safer ingredients for years.

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