EU Commission Restricts the Use of Diisocyanates

The EU Commission is supplementing Annex XVII of REACH and restricting the use of diisocyanates. The Commission notified the World Trade Organization (WTO) of the proposed restriction on September 16.

The restriction is to take effect at the end of 2019 or the beginning of 2020. At that time, a new concentration limit of 0.1% by weight will apply to diisocyanates. In other words, polyurethane (PU) foams, which are made from diisocyanates, may not contain more than 0.1% by weight of free isocyanate monomer.

Nevertheless, the scope of use of diisocyanates is large. They are primarily used to manufacture polyurethane products, including rigid and flexible foams, adhesives, and sealants. But as practicable as their use is, caution is required when dealing with the substance. Diisocyanates irritate the skin and, when inhaled, the respiratory system. Every year, about 5,000 people develop job-related asthma because they come into contact with diisocyanates. That’s the estimate of the authors of the restriction dossier published by the German Federal Agency for Industrial Health and Safety (Bundesanstalt für Arbeitsschutz und Arbeitsmedizin, BAuA) in February 2017 that serves as the basis for the Commission’s action.

What does this mean for companies whose personnel must deal with diisocyanate? They must be trained and obtain a certificate valid throughout Europe. If companies can produce the certificate for their employees, the EU grants exceptions for the marketing and use of diisocyanates. So that companies have time to arrange the training for their employees, the EU Commission provides a transition period of two years.

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