The International Lead Association (ILA) and EUROBAT have called on the EU to make a health-based review of occupational exposure limits (OEL) for lead a priority as a first step towards lowering the existing EU-wide binding limit.
In a letter to the Head of Safety and Health at DG Employment, the two associations expressed their concern about the lack of progress made by the Scientific Committee on Occupational Exposure Limits (SCOEL) to develop a new lower exposure limit for lead and lead compounds.
It is now commonly agreed that the existing biological limit value for lead is not reflective of the current scientific evidence for health effects in the workplace, the letter went on to ask for the limits to be ‘reviewed and amended as soon as possible’.
EUROBAT, representing the European battery industry and ILA, lead producers worldwide, support a review by SCOEL on this basis – both associations, along with Battery Council International, which represents the lead battery industry in the USA, have in place industry voluntary exposure management targets significantly lower than the existing binding values for blood lead, currently 70mcg/dL.
This month, all three associations agreed to a new ambitious goal – zero employees with blood lead levels exceeding 20mcg/dL. Lead producing members of ILA have committed to achieving this target as soon as reasonably practicable whereas the European and American battery sector has committed to achieving the target by the end of 2025 and have even established an interim milestone of 25mcg/dL by the end of 2019.
ILA Regulatory Affairs Director, Steve Binks, said: “The new target of 20mcg/dL is a further demonstration of the continuous improvement that the industry is committed to and highlights that the current EU binding limit value is now not fit for purpose.”
In the light of the industries self-regulation measures and an existing regulatory framework, ILA and EUROBAT have also asked DG Employment to support any proposal to exempt from authorisation lead and lead compounds in battery manufacturing (under REACH Article 58(2)). The associations believe that it is not proportionate to use REACH authorisation to rectify implementation of EU occupational, health and safety legislation.
The industry has argued that REACH authorisation would undermine the competitiveness of the European lead battery industry (a sector with 20,000 workers and an annual turnover of €5bn) without delivering any additional benefits in the control of risk to human health and the environment.
Lead batteries are used in more than one billion cars worldwide and for emergency back-up power, renewable energy storage and for forklift trucks. There are no substitutes for lead compounds in lead battery manufacturing and no alternatives to lead batteries in many applications.
For further information contact: Bob Tolliday, ILA Communications Manager, Tolliday@ila-lead.org tel: +44 (0) 20 7833 8090
Notes to editors
The International Lead Association is the trusted global trade association for the lead industry and its member companies are at the forefront of the mining, smelting, refining and recycling of lead. ILA represents the producers of about 3 million tonnes of lead. The association is working towards a vision of a sustainable global lead industry that is recognised for the positive contribution it makes to society www.ila-lead.org
EUROBAT is the association for the European manufacturers of automotive, industrial and energy storage batteries. EUROBAT has 52 members from across the continent comprising more than 90% of the automotive and industrial battery industry in Europe. The members and staff work with all stakeholders, such as battery users, governmental organisations and media, to develop new battery solutions in areas of hybrid and electro-mobility as well as grid flexibility and renewable energy storage www.eurobat.org