CHROMIUM VI IN CEMENT

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					                                                                                              E     nvironmental
                                                                                                    LEGISLATION
                                                                                               CHROMIUM VI     IN CEMENT




                              CHROMIUM VI                           IN CEMENT
                                           THE SAGA OF A PIECE OF EU LEGISLATION
                                BY   JEAN-MARIE CHANDELLE, CHIEF EXECUTIVE OF CEMBUREAU


The Council of Ministers and the European Parliament have recently adopted restrictive
legislation on the content of chromium VI in cement. CEMBUREAU strongly suggests
that the best way to protect workers and other users is for them to use adequate proctec-
tive devices, and effective working practices, in order not to come into contact with wet
cement. The addition of ferrous sulphate is at best a partial solution to the problem.




T
       ouching wet cement with bare       Directive 1999/45 prescribed new            The saga commences...
       hands may cause skin prob-         labelling requirements for cement at        Even though this is common sense,
       lems. First of all, an irritant    European level.                             common sense did not prevail.
dermatitis caused by the alkaline            More recently, the Commission’s             After a token advice hastily obtained
nature of cement mixed with water.        attention has focused on the risk           from     the   Scientific    Committee
The result is a rash that disap-          of allergic dermatitis linked to the        on Toxicity, Ecotoxicity and the
pears after a few hours. Secondly,        presence of hexavalent chromium in          Environment (CSTEE) attached to the
an allergic dermatitis caused by          cement when there is skin contact           European Commission and with no
water-soluble hexavalent chromium         with wet cement.                            consultation with the concrete indus-
(Cr VI) naturally present in most            Even though reliable statistics did      try, a proposal was put on the table
cements. When dissolved hexavalent        not show conclusively that adding a         by the European Commission.
chromium penetrates the unpro-            reducing agent was a more effective            In the European Parliament, the
tected skin and, inside the body, it is   means to protect users against aller-       debate went completely overboard
transformed into trivalent chromium,      gic dermatitis than the use of protec-      when the Rapporteur stated, against
a molecule which combines with epi-       tive devices, the Commission pro-           a host of scientific evidence, that the
dermal proteins to form the allergen      posed to ban from the market cement         presence of hexavalent chromium in
that causes sensitivity to certain        with more than 2ppm (0.0002%)               cement could be the source of respi-
persons. This allergic problem only       hexavalent chromium per dry weight          ratory cancers. These unfounded alle-
occurs in certain individuals who         of cement, also opting for the use of       gations, which were contradicted by
are particularly sensitive and it is      a reducing agent and prescribing an         scientific evidence, were rejected by
permanent.                                expiry date for deliveries.                 both the Council and the European
   For many years, the cement indus-                                                  Commission but the ban linked to
try approached the protection from        False solution?                             allergic dermatitis was adopted by the
skin problems of workers and other        Adding ferrous sulphate or another          European Parliament followed by the
users as a national issue. In most        reducing agent may provide a solu-          Council on 19 May 2003.
countries, campaigns were under-          tion but it is at best a partial solu-         Regrettably, as well as missing
taken to inform and caution users         tion, as it does not prevent the irritant   the point that reducing chromium VI
and to develop the use of protective      dermatitis linked to the inevitable         content in cement would not address
devices such as gloves and cream.         alkaline nature of cement. Climatic         the 80% of dermatitis cases that are
In other places, adding a reducing        conditions are very important here,         caused by the alkaline nature of wet
agent like ferrous sulphate was the       since the reducing agent will dete-         cement, the Directive also ignores
adopted practice. It was sometimes        riorate more quickly in warm, humid         the fact that there is currently no
prescribed by law.                        conditions. CEMBUREAU has stressed          approved method for measuring
                                          all along that in order not to create       chromium VI content in cement. The
European initiative                       a false feeling of safety and to protect    European Standardisation Committee
In 1999, the European Commission          workers and users effectively, the use      (CEN) is working on such a method,
took a first initiative at European       of protective devices is the only full      a draft of which should be available
level. Even though cement producers       solution against both types of derma-       before the Directive is implemented. It
already indicated on labels and mate-     titis and one which would make the          would make sense for the European
rial safety data sheets (MSDS) the        compulsory use of a reducing agent          Commission to wait for the CEN
irritant characteristic of wet cement,    disproportionate.                           draft method to be available rather



July - August 2003                                          12                                           GCL: ENVIRONMENT
GCL: ENVIRONMENT                                                                                    CHROMIUM VI   IN CEMENT


than duplicate the work already well     The epilogue...                            the best of intentions, the cement
underway.                                Now, after the saga, the epilogue.         industry will find it difficult to comply
                                         CEMBUREAU has recently received the        as long as a method for measuring
CEMBUREAU stance                         results of an epidemiological study        chromium in cement has not been
Throughout the debate, CEMBUREAU         on allergic dermatitis in construc-        defined. Besides, the effectiveness of
has maintained its position. Limiting    tion workers which was commis-             the addition of ferrous sulphate is
the efforts to one issue only,           sioned from an independent institute,      doubtful, particularly in view of vary-
namely chromium VI content, can          the Norwegian National Institute of        ing climatic conditions. These ques-
only produce part of the solution.       Occupational Health, in December           tions were ignored by the European
Consequently:                            2002. The study, ‘Epidemiological          Commission and the European
  • Cement producers should clearly      assessment of the occurrence of aller-     Parliament because they wrongly per-
   indicate the potential risk and       gic dermatitis in workers in the con-      ceived the arguments raised by the
   the means of protection against       struction industry related to the con-     cement industry as rearguard actions.
   cement dermatitis – irritant and      tent of Cr VI in cement,’ confirms that    It is to be hoped that European insti-
   allergic;                             the European Commission took a dis-        tutions are capable of learning a les-
  • Contractors (employers) should       proportionately restrictive approach.      son from their mistakes.
   provide workers with adequate         It concludes that, while there is a link       CEMBUREAU has learned a lesson
   information and related opera-        between the presence of chromium VI        from this experience: early action is
   tional instructions about poten-      in cement and allergic dermatitis in       needed to refute the allegations of
   tial risks when dealing with          construction workers, the effective-       a hypothetical link between cement
   cement preparations;                  ness of reducing the chromium VI           and respiratory cancers which was
  • Contractors (employers) should       content in cement to affect the inci-      raised in the European Parliament.
   provide     adequate     protective   dence of allergic dermatitis amongst       As a responsible industry, the cement
   devices (e.g. gloves, boots, cream,   workers is questionable.                   industry is in the process of commis-
   etc.);                                                                           sioning a new epidemiological study
  • Workers should effectively follow    Lessons to be learned                      that will consider, on a broad scale,
   the instructions received and use     Hastily approved legislation hardly        the health risks which its products
   the protective devices correctly.     ever produces good law. Even with          may present.                         GCL

				
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Description: Chromium helps to promote the metabolism of cholesterol, enhance the body's endurance, in addition, certain physical conditions, it can also promote muscle formation, to avoid excess fat. Middle-aged man one day at least 50 micrograms of chromium, a large amount of those activities, men need a day, 100 - 200 micrograms of chromium. This dose of chromium is very difficult to obtain from food, and therefore recommended that men taking chromium-containing pharmaceutical preparations (such as vitamins and minerals) or drinking beer.