A new restriction on diisocyanates was adopted by the European authorities under REACH on August 4, 2020, targeting respiratory and dermal sensitization potentially caused by diisocyanates. REACH (Registration, Evaluation, Authorisation and Restriction of Chemicals) is a regulation of the European Union, created to improve the protection of human health and the environment from risks that chemicals can pose, while enhancing the competitiveness of the EU chemicals industry.
Polyurethane (PU) adhesives and sealants are safe for use in numerous products in a multitude of industries, such as automotive, furniture, construction, and packaging. The production of polyurethanes requires aromatic or aliphatic diisocyanates. These are safe when used in accordance with established safety measures. In the PU production process, the diisocyanates, reacting with polyols are in fact used up so that they do not exist in the finished polyurethane products. The restriction does not ban the use of polyurethane adhesives and sealants, but establishes training requirements for their safe use. PU adhesives and sealants will therefore continue to be widely used because of their versatility in a variety of applications and as there are no other technologies existing that can produce products with all the properties that PU has.
REACH Regulation EC/1907/2006 addresses the production and use of chemical substances, and their potential impacts on both human health and the environment. The August 4, 2020, restriction under REACH specifies the need for training and labelling requirements for industrial or professional users of diisocyanates (individually or in combinations) with a monomeric concentration greater than 0.1 % by weight. The restriction applies to any activity where exposure to diisocyanates may occur. It does not apply to PU products used by consumers. A separate restriction regarding consumer products has already been implemented.
Training and certification, which involves passing an examination, must be completed by August 24, 2023. Records of the training given to employees must be maintained by employers. Every five years, renewal of the training will be necessary.
By this date, professional and industrial users of diisocyanates will be responsible for ensuring the completion of training for themselves and their employees. Managers, too, will require training. While suppliers are responsible only for informing users of the need for the training, they are not responsible for training workers. No confirmation from the users to the suppliers regarding the receipt of the information is required. Distributors must convey to their customers information received from suppliers.
There are three levels of training corresponding to the different levels of risk. Each individual’s required training content, then, will depend upon the level of risk to which they are exposed.
FEICA, in coordination with the European Diisocyanate & Polyol Producers Association (ISOPA), the European Aliphatic Isocyanates Producer Association (ALIPA), and several other industries in the European polyurethane industry, have organized a comprehensive training program to ensure the safe use of diisocyanates for producers and professional users all over Europe. In this way, FEICA also ensures that all end users of PU containing adhesives and sealants across Europe continue to handle diisocyanates safely. A training platform was already made available in November 2021, first in English, and then in German, and will be available in all European languages by December 2022. The platform is accessible across the EU. A voucher for free training for all end users of European PU adhesives and sealants is available via www.feica.eu. The training material is also available for individual classroom training.
Further information on the safe use of diisocyanates, mandatory training and required labelling can be found via safeusediisocyanates.eu/diisocyanates-reach and feica.eu/our-priorities/safe-use-diisocyanates.