Concern expressed over plans to restrict borax under REACH by Nick Boley

There is wide concern in a number of industrial sectors regarding the proposed restriction, under the REACH regulations, of anhydrous disodium tetraborate, known colloquially as borax. This substance was listed by the European Chemicals agency, ECHA, earlier this year and is included on a list to be recommended for restriction to the European Commission by the Spring of 2015. A public consultation is currently underway on this recommendation with a deadline of 30 November.

Concern has been particularly expressed regarding the likely restriction by the jewellery industry. Borax is used in the measurement procedure used to determine the gold content of gold alloy jewellery, as specified in ISO 11426 “Jewellery — Determination of gold in gold jewellery alloys — Cupellation method (fire assay)”.

This method is the only procedure which is internationally accepted and mandated for this purpose. Therefore a restriction on the use of borax in Europe would seriously affect the ability of those in the jewellery industry to conduct such determinations. The identification and validation of substitutes for borax for use in this procedure would only be of value if the method could be revised, but there is currently no work item for this within ISO or CEN.

This situation illustrated the need for various agencies and organisations to work hand-in-hand to ensure that the consequences of proposed restrictions (and authorisations) are properly managed to ensure that any uses of such substances are fully understood and measures put in place to enable industry to continue using appropriate international and/or European standard methods where these are mandatory.



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