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Chemicals (Environmental Impact)

Volume 407: debated on Wednesday 18 June 2003

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To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what assessment she has made of the environmental impact of (1) (a) alkylphenols, (b) brominated flame retardants, (c) organotin compounds, (d) phthalate esters, (e) short-chain chlorinated paraffins and (f) phthalates DEHP and DBP in products; and if she will make a statement; [119068](2) textile and leather finishing treatments; and if she will make a statement. [119069]

The Existing Substances Regulation (ESR) (793/93/EEC) is the main mechanism through which assessments have been carried out on the environmental impact of existing chemicals. As part of the UK's responsibility as a member state of the European Union, the Government have published the risk assessments and risk reduction strategies for certain alkylphenols, brominated flame retardants and short chain chlorinated paraffins. The Environment Agency undertook a general review of alkylphenols last year and the final reports are due June 2003. The UK is currently working jointly with the French Competent Authority in producing a risk reduction strategy for decabromodiphenylether—a brominated flame retardant.Organotin compounds: The Department has commissioned a number of pieces of research to determine the extent to which use of tributyltin (TBT) as an antifoulant in maritime paints has contaminated the environment and caused effects in biological communities, such as the effect known as imposex in dogwhelks. These include surveys of TBT and imposex on the North Sea (1992 and 1998) and Irish Sea (1998) coasts and the study of the recovery of the benthic communities of the River Crouch in Essex following the 1987 ban on the use of TBT on small craft. Following further amendments to marketing and use restrictions on the use of TBT as a biocide in antifouling paints under Council Directive 2002/62/EC the Department is in the process of commissioning a further survey of effects and concentrations of TBT in UK waters.There has been no assessment of phthalate esters as group of substances, but DEHP and DBP are part of this group.DEHP (diethylhexylphthalate) is being assessed under the Existing Substances Regulation by the Swedish competent authority. A draft risk reduction strategy has been produced.DBP (dibutylphthalate) is also being assessed under ESR by the Dutch Competent Authority. A risk assessment was produced in July 2001.Risk Assessments are published on the European Chemicals Bureau website There has been no systematic assessment of the environmental impact of textile and leather finishing treatments. Risk Assessments have been carried on a range of substances used in finishing treatments for leather and textiles such as detergents, azo dyes, alkylphenols, brominated flame-retardants and chlorinated paraffins under the work of the Existing Substances Regulations (793/93/EEC). Textile coating and leather finishing processes using more than 5 tonnes of solvent a year have been regulated domestically under the Environmental Protection Act since 1992, and are now subject to the provisions of the European Solvent Emissions Directive (1999/13/EC).