US asks for delay to EU cancer classification for TiO2, cobalt

By IM Staff, William Clarke
Published: Wednesday, 01 May 2019

The United States has challenged the EU's carcinogenic classification of titanium dioxide, while cobalt's classification was also refuted.

The United States has challenged EU proposals to label titanium dioxide and cobalt as carcinogens, on the grounds of free trade.

A communication issued by the US delegation to the World Trade Organization dated March 21 raised concerns that the new labeling could represent a non-tariff barrier to trade.

The delegation said that the new rules could be "unnecessarily disruptive to billions of dollars in US-EU trade."

The US also said that the process to reclassify the substances had not been transparent, and had not left enough time for WTO members to submit comments.

EU draft proposals would classify titanium dioxide in powder form as a potential carcinogen, or category 2 carcinogen. This would mean that products containing it would need to carry warning labels.

The proposal skirts a line between an opinion from the European Chemical Agency calling for all forms of titanium dioxide to be classified as potential carcinogens, and pressure from industry lobbyists opposing such a classification in any form.

"We are concerned that a number of products that contain titanium dioxide, including paints, cosmetics and plastics, will have to reformulate or be labeled as containing a carcinogen," the US delegation said.

In 2016, the French government triggered an EU inquiry into titanium dioxide use after research showed increased occurrence of pre-cancerous lesions in rats. If the EC were to classify TiO2 as potentially carcinogenic, all products containing the material would need to be labeled as such under EU rules.

Cobalt metal is also facing a change in classification, and could be classed as a category 1B substance, or "presumed carcinogen." This would impose even stronger restrictions.

The relevant body of the European Chemical Agency proposed the classification of cobalt as a category 1b material in 2017.