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anses

French Agency for Food, Environmental and Occupational Health & Safety

A website dedicated to EU work on safety threshold values for chemical emissions from consumer goods

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News of 01/04/2015

Construction materials, furniture and decoration products can be sources of indoor pollution due to the potentially harmful chemicals they sometimes release.  Several European countries, including France, have drafted protocols and lowest concentrations of interest (LCIs) in order to qualify the emission of volatile organic compounds (VOCs) of some of these consumer goods. The goal of the LCI values is to prevent the onset of health effects due to long-term exposure to chemicals released from consumer goods. In collaboration with other European organisations and stakeholders, ANSES participated in work on the European harmonisation of these protocols and LCIs. This EU-level work, begun in 2011, is now widely available thanks to the creation of a dedicated website, www.eu-lci.org.

 

Building materials, interior decoration products and furniture are regularly mentioned as potential sources of pollution of indoor environments, due to their emissions of potentially harmful volatile or semi-volatile substances. Faced with this situation, certain European countries, including France, propose various qualification procedures for construction and decoration products, in order to reduce pollutant emissions at their source. These procedures lead to identifying "low VOC" construction materials and decoration products and promoting them to consumers. In France, the regulations define labelling conditions based on expert appraisal work conducted by ANSES. 

On the EU level, the Joint Research Center (JRC) coordinated harmonisation studies of the qualification protocols for volatile organic compounds (VOCs) released by construction and decoration materials. A proposal for harmonisation of these protocols by the preparatory group comprising various European organisations, was published in the European Collaborative Action report No. 27 in 2012).

In this context, a website was recently set up to promote and disseminate the EU work begun in 2011 on harmonisation of the "lowest concentration of interest" concept. ANSES is collaborating on this work with other European organisations and stakeholders (AgBB[1], UBA[2], VITO[3], etc). The lowest concentration of interest (LCI) is the limit value set to prevent the onset of health effects following long-term exposure to VOC emissions from consumer goods, including construction and decoration materials. An LCI is set for each separate compound.

The website, which contains all of the established LCIs, is for all those responsible for placing consumer goods on the market, and more specifically construction and decoration materials, as well as for contractors and project managers in order to help them choose materials. It is also useful for consumers.

 

ANSES's assessment

In 2004, the Agency was asked by the Ministries of health and the environment to propose a risk assessment procedure for volatile organic compounds released by construction materials. In their report, the Agency proposed a procedure for the qualification of volatile organic compound (VOC) emissions from construction materials and decoration products. As of 1September 2013, labelling of construction and decoration products sold in France is mandatory.

However, furnishing materials marketed in France are not currently subject to this labelling obligation. Consequently, ANSES is currently conducting an expert assessment to support the ministries in the development of labelling for the substances emitted by these products. This assessment is an extension of the work already conducted on construction and decoration materials, and falls within the establishment of regulations applicable to furnishing materials. The results will be published before summer 2015.

 

[1]Ausschuss zur gesundheitlichen Bewertung von Bauprodukten (German Committee for Health-related Evaluation of Building Products)

[2]Umweltbundesamt (German Federal Environment Agency)

[3]Vlaamse Instelling voor Technologisch Onderzoek (Flemish Institute for Technological Research)