In the future, persistent, mobile, and toxic (PMT) chemicals and chemicals that are very persistent and very mobile (vPvM) in water will be considered substances of very high concern (SVHC). The EU plans this classification as part of its chemicals strategy. The final draft is expected in the fall.
But what are the criteria that define a chemical as a PMT or vPvM substance? The KOC value is one such criterion. It indicates how well a chemical is distributed between water and organic substances when it seeps into the ground. If a substance remains dissolved in water when seeping into the ground, it is mobile. If it is very soluble, it is very mobile. The crux of the matter is that the chemical can wind up in drinking water.
The EU wants to protect the sources of drinking water better with this advance. In the past, researchers have repeatedly found chemicals in drinking water and groundwater. One of the major scientists involved has been Hans Peter Arp of the Norwegian Geotechnical Institute (NGI) and the Norwegian University for Science and Technology. Along with other scientists, he regards the mobility criterion as an indispensable chemical property for better evaluation of the environmental risks of chemicals. Additional criteria that serve as the basis for a classification as PMT and/or vPvM have been defined by scientists led by the German Environment Agency (Umweltbundesamt: UBA) and published in REACH: Improvement of guidance and methods for the identification and assessment of PMT/vPvM substances. By implication, therefore, registrants must have their chemicals studied more thoroughly and provide more information as the basis for better evaluation of the substances.
The authors of the UBA report conclude that 135 substances registered under REACH (as of May 2017) pose a hazard to drinking water and should therefore be classified in Category 1, Prioritized PMT/vPvM Substances – chemicals that meet both PMT and vPvM criteria. They include compounds like:
The costs estimated by the authors are telling – €0.8–€1.5 billion per year just in Germany to remove the chemicals even partially from water (UBA report, page 21). For all of Europe, the cost of cleansing and purifying drinking water approachas several billion euros.
For background information on this topic, please see our article: EU States Support the Concept of Environmental Mobility Under REACH.
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