Ban on medium-chain chlorinated paraffins would have ‘severe impact’ on industry

The government has told the Environment Agency to prepare a dossier setting out why medium-chain chlorinated paraffins (MCCPs) should be banned under the Stockholm Convention, despite opposition from users and producers.

The order was made in April, following a consultation on the plan that ran over February and March. Similarly-structured short-chain chlorinated paraffins (SCCPs) have been banned under the convention on persistent organic pollutants since 2017.

If accepted by the convention secretariat, the proposal would be published ahead of the next meeting of its Persistent Organic Pollutants Review Committee (POPRC) in September. Assuming that it passes their checks, further consultation would be opened before any measure to wholly eliminate production, restrict uses or prevent unintentional release is considered by a full convention of the parties. DEFRA has promised to publish documents submitted to the POPRC.

DEFRA received 17 responses to the consultation, summaries of which were published on Monday. One came from the Australian government, backing the plan.

“In 2019, the Australian National Industrial Chemicals Notification and Assessment Scheme (NICNAS) published a risk assessment of these chemicals, which concluded that MCCPs are persistent, bioaccumulative and toxic according to Australian environmental hazard criteria,” with some forms meeting the thresholds for listing under the convention, it said.

It highlighted how the ban on SCCPs resulted in regrettable substitution, with users (primarily the paints industry, metalworking fluid producers and polyvinyl chloride processors) adopting MCCPs instead. This has resulted in MCCPs becoming “the dominant chlorinated paraffin” in sewage sludge and dust from homes and vehicles there.

The Swiss government is also supportive.

However, leading lubricant manufacturer Petrofer submitted that banning MCCPs would have “a severe impact” on manufacturing processes that depend on lubrication under extreme pressure. This includes broaching, the cutting of irregular shapes into metal components.

“Alternative technologies, though safer for both operators and the environment will not perform,” in such circumstances, it claimed, adding that, a ban would “simply drive the production of items and our industry to other countries such as India where the regulation of chlorinated cutting fluids is not an issue”, losing jobs and tax revenue in the process.

Inovyn Chlorvinyls, a branch of Ineos and the lead REACH registrant for MCCPs, said that research has shown that its products rapidly biodegrade. It added that their safe use has been demonstrated under REACH.

Danish paint maker Hempel, which uses MCCPs as a plasticiser in specialist products for road marking, maritime applications and shipping containers, said that it produces between two and three million litres of paint each year. Reformulation costs would therefore be significant, it cautioned.

The Chemical Industries Association is also against including MCCPs in the convention, on the grounds that not all criteria for listing have been met. “We therefore ask that the UK re-evaluates this, taking into consideration the latest scientific data and points put forward by industry,” it stated.

The British Plastics Federation agreed, while emphasising how banning the chemicals would be a stumbling block for the circular economy, as it would prevent the recycling of PVC cable sheaths and plastic road barriers. “The destruction of all PVC would therefore have a direct impact on UK employment and business activity, a wide-reaching impact on the users of recycled PVC in industrial applications, and a net-detrimental effect on the environment and human health,” said its response to the consultation.

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