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New EU-Wide Requirements for Substances in Contact with Drinking Water

New EU-Wide Requirements for Substances in Contact with Drinking Water

On December 18, 2019, the European Parliament and the Council reached a provisional agreement on the recast Drinking Water Directive (DWD) and the European Chemicals Agency (ECHA) announced that it is in charge of compiling and managing an “EU positive list of chemicals that can be safely used in materials that come into contact with drinking water”, which includes substances used in materials to produce water pipes and taps, among others.

Some Member States developed national requirements for use of substances for drinking water distribution, which created significant disruption to the mutual recognition of “approved substances” between Member States. Germany, France, The Netherlands, United Kingdom, Italy and Portugal have worked together since 2007 to find a common understanding of the applicable requirements.

As ECHA said in a press release on January, 14, 2020, a first positive list is expected to be adopted by 2024 on the basis of the lists used for the production of materials in contact with water intended for human consumption in the Member States, that will cover around 1500 chemicals, which will be considered “authorised” pending the review by ECHA. On the one hand, companies are expected to proactively submit a renew application to the Agency to keep their substances on this list and, on the other hand, the Agency is expected to reassess all those substances within 15 years from its publication. In the review process, ECHA will prioritise substances for review on the basis of (i) each substance’s hazardous properties, and (ii) the quality and timeliness of the related risk assessment. Moreover, Member States are expected to submit dossiers to remove substances from the positive list or to update entries.

The recast DWD will enter into force 20 days after its publication in the Official Journal, that will take place after the formal approval by the European Parliament and the Council.

As the Commission will start developing information requirements for applicants and assessment methods with the support of both the ECHA and the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA), in its assessment, they will need to follow internationally recognized scientific principles on risk assessment, taking into consideration the migration of substances from these materials and articles into drinking water, looking beyond the hazard-based assessment. This framework is linked to food contact materials (FCMs) and the methods used by EFSA for its work under the Plastics Regulation 10/2011.

This could be an opportunity used by the parties interested in these substances and their uses to contribute to the process of developing these information requirements and assessment methods, as this framework will shape the review process.

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