Biocides: Fewer Choices, Higher Costs


As the lubricants industry girds for the introduction of the European Unions REACH legislation, metalworking fluid suppliers in the region are already grappling with another chemical registration mandate – the Biocides Product Directive. Some say the rule, which is being phased in this year and next, will push suppliers to stop offering many of the biocides available today and drive up costs for those that remain.

The Biocides Product Directive is separate from REACH (which stands for registration, evaluation and authorization of chemicals), but like it requires companies that sell or use chemicals to provide test data demonstrating that those chemicals do not pose health hazards in the way they are used. REACH has attracted more attention because of the breadth of substances it covers. But whereas REACH is not scheduled to go into effect until June, the Biocides Directive has already passed its first threshold of implementation.

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Beginning Sept. 1, chemical companies were prohibited from offering biocides that they do not plan to register – a process expected to be rigorous and costly. Companies have until July to conduct testing and provide documentation needed to obtain authorization. In the meantime, they can continue offering substances for which they provided notification of intent to seek authorization.

Lubrizol Corp. recently estimated that two thirds of all biocide products will ultimately be eliminated by the directive. The good news, according to the Wickliffe, Ohio, additive company, is formulators will probably still be able to find biocides for all metalworking fluid applications – be they oil, water or synthetic based, whether they call for bactericides or fungicides.

I think for there are still going to be adequate chemistries available for metalworking, said Philip R. Miller, global compliance manager for metalworking additives at Lubrizol Metalworking Additives in Spartanburg, S.C.

The bad news is that many fluid marketers may find that the biocides they have used are no longer available, at least from their traditional supplier. In addition, products that remain on the market are likely to be more expensive, both because of the reduced level of competition and to cover the costs of registration.

For the formulator, two consequences are clear, said Heinz Dwuletzki, head of research and development for the metalworking division of lubricant supplier Carl Bechem GmbH, in Hagen, Germany. Prices of biocides will generally rise in order to pay back the costs associated with the Biocides Directive. And the variety of possible biocidal types will be less.

Industry sources agree the impact of the directive will not be felt until June – or even quite a bit later. Individuals contacted for this article agreed that some companies have filed notification for products that will end up not being authorized. Moreover, loopholes in the law allow for free riders that will permit substances to be sold even without notification. Riders may last until 2009.

Several metalworking fluid marketers contacted for this article said they have experienced no interruption in availability of the biocides that they use. Nevertheless, some worry that problems will inevitably crop up when regulations of this type are enforced.

When we ask what is going to happen, we are told that [our supplier] is going to take care of the situation, said an official with another metalworking fluid blender, who asked not to be identified. But we dont have any specific information yet, and knowing how complicated this legislation is, I just cant get a warm feeling about what is going to happen.

Miller noted that the Society of Tribologists and Lubrication Engineers will have a panel discussion on biocide legislation at its annual meeting in Philadelphia this spring. The session, scheduled for May 8, will feature panelists with expertise on antimicrobial pesticide regulations in the European Union, the United States and Canada.

Related Topics

Additive Components    Additives    Biocides