Novel RMs produced to support WFD analyses by Nick Boley

Scientists at the European Commission’s Joint Research Laboratory (JRC), based in Geel (Belgium) have developed a series of three water reference materials (RMs) containing priority hazardous substances (PHS) as defined under the EU Water Framework Directive (WFD). These three novel materials contain:

  1. eight polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs),
  2. six polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDEs), and
  3. tributyltin

A recent report published under the Government Chemist’s Advisory Function on analytical measurement issues in relation to the WFD highlighted the dearth of reference materials to support laboratories carrying out monitoring of water bodies in support of the WFDs. These new materials provide an extremely welcome development to help and support monitoring laboratories in carrying out these measurements accurately and precisely at the very low concentrations required.


New EA approach to hazardous pollutants discharges by Nick Boley

The Environment Agency will be introducing more stringent rules covering discharges of hazardous chemicals in surface waters. following a partial response to a consultation on this subject which closed in December 2013 to amend the Environmental Permitting Regulations 2010.

The procedure for screening hazardous pollutants in water discharges will be tightened, with the emphasis on the more toxic pollutants and is aimed to deliver compliance with the agency’s “no deterioration” policy which requires “control of discharges which cause more than 10% deterioration against the EU Environmental Quality Standard (EQS)”.

One of the main concerns about this change of direction is from those responsible for measuring pollutants in laboratories – including water companies. The methods of analysis available for many of the most highly toxic pollutants which would be caught by this change struggle to cope with the current levels as specified in the EQS and so there is a potential large cost to laboratories to gear up their procedures to cope. The ability of measurement methods to enforce and monitor pollution under any regulatory regime is an important aspect and should not be ignored.


New EU Regulation on Persistent Organic Pollutants by Nick Boley
December 18, 2014, 10:22
Filed under: chemicals, Environment/Ecology, EU Regulation/Legislation, Waste | Tags: ,

The European Commission have published a new regulation, 1342/2014, which adds limit values to a number of persistent organic pollutants (POPs) listed in the Stockholm Convention. The POPs concerned are: chlordecone, hexabromobiphenyl, hexachlorocyclohexanes, including lindane, pentachlorobenzene, tetrabromodiphenyl ether, pentabromodiphenyl ether, hexabromodiphenyl ether and heptabromodiphenyl ether, and perfluorooctane sulfonic acid and its derivatives.

These are for articles, where the values are between 15 µg/kg for dioxins and furans, to 50 mg/kg for many other POPs.

Validated analytical methods need to be in place to ensure that this can be enforced, and the limits are such that this is not an issue.


EU Report highlights silver threat to environment by Nick Boley
November 21, 2014, 15:18
Filed under: Environment/Ecology, EU Research, Nanomaterials | Tags: , ,

The European Commission has published a report in their Science For Environment News Alert, which highlights the concern over the fate of nanoparticulate silver (nano-silver) which is released into the aquatic environment. Nano-silver is used very effectively as a bactericide in many clothing products, particularly socks. They are considered to be anti-microbials, in that they release silver ions which inhibit bacterial and microbial growth.

However, it is this very behaviour which has prompted this concern. The propensity of nano-silver to release ionic silver is damaging to the environment as it is now widely thought that ionic silver is significantly more toxic to the aquatic environment than uncharged nanoparticles of silver.

In order to gain a more robust assessment of the environmental threat from silver, researchers do need to be able to measure levels of both charged ionic silver, and uncharged nano-silver. Measuring total silver will not enable ecotoxicologists to obtain an accurate picture of the ionic silver load to the environment. Differentiating between the two forms is essential, therefore, and we believe that work should be undertaken to achieve this; we do not believe that this task is impossible. Work should commence within LGC on this in the near future.

Fracking chemicals – EU developments by Nick Boley

As the possibility of large-scale commercial hydraulic fracturing (fracking) in Europe edges closer, a  generic exposure scenario (GES) is being drawn up by the European Chemical Industry Council (Cefic), the European Oilfield Specialty Chemicals Association (Eosca) and the International Association of Oil and Gas Producers (IOGP). This has been discussed by the EU’s Competent Authorities for REACH and CLP (Caracal) recently.

There is currently no requirement under REACH for dossiers for substances used in fracking operations to specifically include references to their use in fracking.

The industry group is also preparing a background document which will describe, in simple terms, the main steps in fracking, and will include current available data on potential emissions and exposure from each step. This will include a generic list of fracking additives, stating their type or function.

It will be important, going forward, to ensure that these additives, and all potentially harmful substances, used in fracking operations, can be measured accurately and down to environmentally sensitive low concentrations, in order that the consequences of this technology can be monitored and the environment and public safety appropriately protected as a result.


European Commission asks Member States for Fracking Information by Nick Boley
October 27, 2014, 12:59
Filed under: Environment/Ecology, EU Information, Waste, Water | Tags: , , , ,

The European Commission have reminded Member State Governments of the need to respond to a questionnaire to inform DG Environment of the measures being taken surrounding any intention to permit exploration and production of hydrocarbons (such as shale gas) using high-volume hydraulic fracturing (fracking).

This follows on from a Commission Recommendation which discusses the minimum principles on this subject, and was issued in January 2014.

The questionnaire contains a wide range of questions, but some of them have a definite analytical measurement direction. For example, one of the issues raised in question 6.2 is whether baseline values for the presence of methane and other volatile organic compounds in water would be determined prior to operations commencing. Question 10.1 asks whether measures are in place to ensure that manufacturers, importers and downstream users refer to “hydraulic fracturing” when complying with their obligations under REACH Regulation – specifically with regards to chemical substances used in hydraulic fracturing fluids. Two points raised in question 11.3 ask whether measures are in place to ensure operators measure the precise composition of the fracturing fluid used for each well, and air emissions of methane, other volatile organic compounds and other gases that are likely to have harmful effects on human health and/or the environment. Question 15 asks whether measures are in place to ensure that the operator publicly disseminates information on the chemical substances and volumes of water that are intended to be used and are finally used for the high-volume hydraulic fracturing of each well, including  listing the names and CAS numbers of all substances and include a safety data sheet, if available, and the substances’ maximum concentration in the fracturing fluid.


Consumer Organisations and NGOs respond to EU Ecolabel Consultation by Nick Boley

The European Commission recently carried out a consultation to support the evaluation of the Implementation of the EU Ecolabel Regulation (EC) 66/2010.

A number of consumer organisations and Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs) led by the European Environmental Bureau (EEB), the European Consumer Organisation (BEUC) and the European Association for the Co-ordination of Consumer Representation in Standardisation
(ANEC) have collated responses to the consultation into a single document, and this makes for interesting reading.

Some specific aspects of interest that these consultees highlighted show that many of them consider that the Ecolabel scheme should concentrate on some key parameters such as packaging, chemicals and forestry (sustainable timber). The report also states that harmonised measurement methods in support of Ecolabel claims are needed. We would support these comments, as validated measurement methods are always necessary to support and enforce any label claim. The Government Chemist is also funding a study to investigate the feasibility of developing methods for differentiating sustainable from non-sustainable timber.