The discussion at Chemical Watch's excellent webinar yesterday highlighted the extraordinary efforts being made by government, regulators and industry to ensure that vital biocides remain available at the point of need. The impressive roster of speakers included the Heads of Unit from the Biocides teams at both the European Commission (DG Sante) and ECHA, as well as the French Ecology Ministry (Office of Chemical Products) and CEFIC/EBPF.

My takeaways are as follows:

  • Article 55 of the BPR enables member state competent authorities, in cases of danger to public health, to provide short-term derogations from certain obligations under the legislation. However, the mechanisms for providing and obtaining those permissions differ from member state to member state, so companies operating in multiple jurisdictions will need to follow the appropriate procedure for each individual market.
  • The duration of the derogation will also differ by member state. In the UK, the HSE appears to be offering the maximum duration available under the BPR (i.e. 180 days), however some member states have opted for a more cautious approach.
  • The supply chain challenges (and solutions) relating to biocides are not limited to disinfectants/hand sanitisers. For example, ECHA has been working with EASA (the European Union Aviation Safety Agency) to provide guidance in respect of aircraft fuel additives that are used to counter the spread of waterborne micro-organisms which, if water accumulates in fuel tanks while the aircraft is grounded, feed off hydrocarbons in the fuel.
  • Ian Watt of DuPont & Chair of the relevant CEFIC Sector Group, stressed that it was important for all parties (both government and industry) to think beyond the current emergency measures (as important as they are) and to start planning for the medium- and long-term. This appears to be very sensible advice given that increased demand and supply chain disruption is likely to extend well beyond  the 'lockdown' phase.