April 13, 2023: Lead industry leaders are calling for urgent talks with the European Commission over proposals that would require lead metal to be listed on a chemicals authorization register.
The European Chemicals Agency (ECHA) said on April 12 it had officially submitted the proposals for lead and seven other substances to be added to its REACH (Registration, Evaluation, Authorisation and Restriction of Chemicals) list — indicating that the substance will eventually be substituted and can only be used in the meantime with specific permission from the Commission.
The fresh assault on the lead and lead batteries industry comes despite warnings last year that such a move could trigger a batteries “investment freeze” and derail EU carbon reduction plans.
Responding to ECHA’s latest move, ILA regulatory affairs director Steve Binks said the Commission was being urged to reject the proposal — given that lead and products containing lead are already comprehensively regulated through a range of EU legislation that protects workers and the environment.
“Lead is an essential raw material in which Europe is strategically autonomous and it supports a wide range of low-carbon technologies which are vital to delivering the European Green Deal’s low carbon objectives,” he said/
Binks said views expressed by Germany, included in the minutes of ECHA’s decision-making committee, “neatly summarize the position… that including lead metal in the REACH authorization list overlaps with and contradicts other regulations, including the new Batteries Regulation and the Restriction of Hazardous Substances Directive”.
In a joint statement with the Lead REACH Consortium, ILA said authorization listing for lead “will simply add unnecessary bureaucratic burden, block investment and is not the best option to improve risk management, stimulate faster substitution, or reduce exposure”.
The move would do little more than create uncertainty, which undermines the financial viability of successful European companies, the groups said: “It effectively reduces the productivity and competitiveness of successful EU value chains, potentially opening the door to non-EU competitors that will continue to use lead to manufacture products that still have a societal need.”
According to a study released to the public in April 2022, the lead battery industry is worth an estimated €15 billion ($16 billion) of value added or gross domestic product a year to the European economy.
The report said the downstream industry activity driven by the use of lead batteries is worth €7.3 trillion of gross domestic product across retail, construction and healthcare.
Batteries International reported last February that a new European Commission proposal for significant reductions in the exposure limit for lead could rack up costs for primary metal producers and battery sector firms — and risk undermining EU climate goals.