Chlorinated paraffins (CPs), which were introduced in the 1930s, are primarily used in metal working fluids, sealants, resins; and coatings.
The Commission noted, in its request to the Authority, that CPs may be released into the environment through product use or through improper disposal.
“There is also potential for food and feed chain contamination,” wrote the EU executive.
Short chain CPs (SCCPs) and, to a lesser extent, medium chain CPs (MCCPs) bioconcentrate in fish and molluscs, noted the Commission’s letter. Food, it said, is thought to be the main exposure to CPs for humans.
SCCPs have been detected in samples of human breast milk from Canada and the UK, as well as in a variety of food items from Japan and various regions of Europe, according to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in the US.
The EPA said even relatively small releases of these chemicals from individual manufacturing, processing, or waste management facilities have the potential to accumulate over time to higher levels and cause significant adverse impacts on the environment.
And certain CPs have been classified as “possibly carcinogenic” to humans by the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC).
The Commission asked EFSA to complete the risk assessment by the end of December 2018.
Laying hen study
Interestingly, researchers in a study published in 2007 found no evidence the performance of hens was negatively influenced by CPs, even at very high additions used in the experiment.
They conducted an eight-week trial, feeding SCCPs in increasing concentrations, up to 100mg/kg feed to laying hens, to test the influence of CPs on the health and production rate of the animals and the possible tissue retention of CPs.
After the exposure, they said the animals in the 100 mg/kg group received uncontaminated feed for six weeks to follow the elimination kinetics in the tissue.
No significant influence on health, relative organ weights or performance from laying intensity to egg weight to feed consumption was noted.
“The chlorinated paraffin content of the tissues was linearly related to the concentration of short chain paraffins of the feed. The highest concentrations were found in abdominal fat, egg yolk and fatty tissues.
"Breast muscle, egg albumen and bile fluid contained minimal or no residues. Less than 1% of the chlorinated paraffins ingested were incorporated into the body without head, feet, gut and feathers, whereas about 1.5% were eliminated with the egg yolk and 30% were excreted with urine and faeces,” wrote the authors.
The production, placing on the market and use of SCCPs has been prohibited by the POP Regulation (Regulation (EC) 850/2004) in the EU since 2012.
Contrary to the SCCPs, the use of MCCPs is not restricted. MCCPs are not mentioned explicitly in any EU legislation addressing chemicals in products, emissions or wastes.
The total EU production of CPs is approximately 45,000 t/y and, of this, the majority is considered to be MCCPs, according to a Danish report.
A meeting of the Persistent Organic Pollutants Review Committee of the Stockholm Convention in September this year recommended a global ban on SCCPs.
But according to committee documents, SCCPs are still produced in Brazil, China and Russia and imported by countries such as Australia, South Korea, Argentina and Mexico.
The committee noted the short chain variety can also be produced unintentionally during the manufacture of other CP mixtures; medium-chain chlorinated paraffins and other CP mixtures are often used as alternatives to SCCPs.