The Commission's study was prompted by a ruling by the European Court of Justice earlier this year (ENDS Report 233, p 43 ). This upheld a challenge by France against the Commission's decision in 1992 to allow Germany to keep in place legislation effectively banning PCP.
The German rules went further than a 1991 EC Directive, which allows the continued use of PCP and its compounds in industrial installations for treating wood and textiles, as a chemical intermediate, and for treating timber in historic buildings. France claimed that the ban constituted a trade barrier.
However, the European Court ruled against the Commission only on the grounds that it had failed to give reasons for approving the German legislation, and in September Brussels responded by announcing its reasons (ENDS Report 236, p 36 ). The full text has now been published as a Commission Decision.
In September, the Commission also announced that it was bringing forward a study of the availability of PCP substitutes. Under the 1991 Directive, it is required to review the case for allowing PCP to remain in use by mid-1995.
The notice announcing its willingness to hear submissions towards its review says that the Commission will be consulting Member States, industry and consumer groups with a view to examining the availability of substitutes for PCP in its few remaining applications. Production of the chemical within the EC ceased when Rhone-Poulenc stopped manufacturing it in 1992, but about 1,500 tonnes per year are believed to be imported.
The Decision published this month suggests that the Commission will not necessarily receive support from all Member States for a ban on PCP, particularly if this applied to products containing traces of the chemical.
The Decision reveals that five Member States responded when asked to offer views on the German ban. As well as France, Italy objected on the grounds that its exports of leather goods containing traces of PCP might be inhibited, while Belgium is reported as saying that the bank "might create problems as regards some products." Greece argued that the 1991 Directive already provides adequate protection for humans and the environment. Only Denmark supported the German rules.