27.3.2004   

EN

Official Journal of the European Union

CE 78/923


(2004/C 78 E/0976)

WRITTEN QUESTION E-0060/04

by Hiltrud Breyer (Verts/ALE) to the Commission

(20 January 2004)

Subject:   Chromium (VI) in leather

On 18 June 2003, Directive 2003/53/EC (1) of the European Parliament and the Council amending for the 26th time Council Directive 79/769/EEC (2) relating to restrictions on the marketing and use of certain dangerous substances and preparations, including chromium (VI) in cement, came into force.

Various tests by industrial occupational health and safety agencies in Germany and the German TV programme ‘ARD Ratgeber Bauen und Wohnen’ (ARD Guide to building and living) have now shown that not only cement, but also many leather work gloves can contain extremely high levels of chromium (VI). In the case of the gloves tested, the limits imposed in the above directive were exceeded many times over. Various publications have shown this to be the case, and also for other leather products such as work shoes.

1.

Is the Commission aware of these findings?

2.

Does the Commission also intend to restrict the marketing of leather containing chromium (VI)? If so, when and how would this take place?

Answer given by Mr Byrne on behalf of the Commission

(23 February 2004)

The Commission is not aware of the specific recent results of investigations in Germany that have reported high levels of chromium (VI) in a number of leather consumer products. Normally, any measure based on such findings would have been communicated to the Commission and the other Member States through the rapid notification and exchange of information system (RAPEX) of the Directive 2001/95/EEC of the Parliament and of the Council of 3 December 2001 on general product safety (3). To date there has been no official notification on the subject by the German authorities.

Within the framework of the Council Regulation (EEC) No 793/93 (4) a Risk Assessment (RA) of certain chromium (VI) compounds has been performed. A Risk Reduction Strategy is expected at the end of 2004.

According to the RA-report, the treatment processes applied for leather (and wood) goods within the EU are such that any exposure of consumers would be expected to be exclusively to chromium in the trivalent state and not to chromium in the hexavalent state. The report however pointed out that there was no information available concerning leather (and wood) goods imported from third countries and hence no assessment was made of the potential human health risks from the possible presence of chromium (VI) in such imported goods.

In recent months, however, the Commission has become aware of a number of scientific and lay press publications reporting the presence and release of chromium (VI) in leather consumer products (gloves, wrist bands, leather garments etc.). The Commission intends to initiate a systematic enquiry with the Member States to obtain all available information on the matter.

On the basis of the available information, the Commission will seek the advice of one of its Scientific Committees concerning the health risks that may be associated with the release of chromium (VI) in leather products with a view to implement appropriate risk reduction measures.


(1)  OJ L 178, 17.7.2003, p. 24.

(2)  OJ L 262, 27.9.1976, p. 201.

(3)  OJ L 11, 15.1.2002.

(4)  Council Regulation (EEC) No 793/93 of 23 March 1993 on the evaluation and control of the risks of existing substances, OJ L 184, 5.4.1993.