Protecting consumers from biocides chemicals by making pest control products safer

Ministers responsible for the Environment meeting in Brussels within the Council on 20 December, reached an agreement which will make pest control products and other everyday items safer to use. The Council determined its first-reading position on revised EU rules concerning biocidal products, which covers a wide range of pest control products, such as insecticides, disinfectants and repellents, but not medicines or agricultural pesticides.

This new legal act identifies for the first time which active substances may not be used in biocidal products, and bans substances that can cause cancer, mutations or fertility problems as well as chemicals that act as endocrine disruptors. In addition to the Commission's proposal, the Council has excluded chemicals with harmful effects on the environment, but which may be essential to prevent a serious danger to public health or the environment. It agreed that these substances may therefore still be authorised, under certain specific conditions.

Obligations for all products treated with biocodes and EU-wide authorisations

The regulation now also covers articles incorporating pest control chemicals, such as everyday products like sleeping bags, sofas or smell-free socks which are treated with biocidal substances. These products may no more be treated with unauthorised chemicals and must be labelled, making theam much safer for consumers. These obligations apply to all articles treated with biocides on the EU market, including imported ones.

The review supplements the current mutual recognition system for active substances permitted in biociodes authorised by Member satates, with the possibility of authorising biocidal products at EU level so as to reduce the administrative burden on producers. The European Chemicals Agency will then be responsible for issuing permits for both substances and products. This will be an optional procedure in addition to the current system of national product authorisation.

As a first step, the Council wants to introduce Union authorisation for certain product types from 2013. From 2020 onwards, most biocidal products will qualify for EU authorisation. The regulation also seeks to improve the mutual recognition system.

In June 2009, the Commission proposed to replace the existing directive by a regulation so as to harmonise its implementation. The political agreement reached within the Council determines its position at first reading. The European Parliament voted its first-reading position on 22 September, so negotiations between the two co-legislators to finalise the new act are expected to take place after the linguistic revision and formal adoption of the text agreed in December by the Council.