EU court overturns aquatic toxicity classification, putting another hole in EPA’s Relative Potency Factor approach to PAH mixtures

Posted by Anne LeHuray, October 11, 2015

In a rare win for science, the subscription news service Chemical Watch reports that

The European General Court has annulled part of the mandatory classification of the substance CTPHT [coal tar pitch, high temperature], following an appeal by 18 companies.

Its ruling means CTPHT is no longer classified as a substance with category 1 acute and chronic aquatic toxicity…

In its written opinion, which is available here, the Court took note of the very low aqueous solubility of coal tar pitch, which is in contrast with the assumption made by European Chemical Agency’s (ECHA’s) Risk Assessment Committee (RAC) that all of the individual PAHs dissolved in water and were therefore available to aquatic biota. According to the Court’s opinion, the highest tested actual solubility of coal tar pitch was 0.0014%, but the European Commission accepted ECHA’s individual polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbon (PAH) constituent method as the basis of the “category 1 acute and chronic aquatic toxicity” classification. The PAH constituent method resulted in a calculated solubility of 9.2%. The Court concluded

…such a value is not realistic, given that the maximum rate is 0.0014%.

According to Chemical Watch, the Court’s ruling is a landmark case in the EU because, apparently for the first time, it sets limits on the discretionary powers of EU government agencies when assessing chemical risks.

The ruling has significance to how the US EPA assesses PAHs as well. Continue reading