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Smouldering issue: Is lithium a toxic substance? Secretary General of ILiA points out

 

 

Will the potential risks of lithium never materialise⁉… The risk is the issue of classification as a toxic substance. It has been smouldering for more than six months since the news agency reported that the European Chemicals Agency was considering its classification.  Roland Chavasse, Secretary General of the International Lithium Association, gave an update on the situation in a speech at BatterySummit 2023, which was held by our company on 30-31 January. Although it is said that this does not mean a ban on lithium imports, if a decision is made, the regulations will be tightened and costs will increase in terms of processing, storage and so on. The association is also persistently lobbying the authorities through advocacy and other activities, but it is not predictable, according to Mr. Chavasse.

 

Mr Chavasse's speech, entitled 'International Lithium Association: Support for the Global Lithium Industry', was in the context of the rapid growth of EVs (electric vehicles), which has led to a rapid expansion of regulatory developments. 'It is very important that the regulations are appropriate', he said, adding that the regulatory move in the EU is to reclassify lithium carbonate, lithium hydroxide and lithium chloride to category 1A (the highest toxicity classification)'.

 

The issue was first publicly reported in July 2022, under the headline 'EU classifies lithium as toxic but industry groups oppose' by Reuters. According to the report, after referring to a series of events, including that "the European Chemicals Agency has proposed classifying lithium salts as harmful to human health based on studies of lithium-containing drugs used for a long time as a treatment for mood disorders", "seven industry associations expressed opposition, saying the scientific basis was weak".

 

In his speech, Mr. Chavasse also reiterated his intention to continue advocating against the classification as a hazardous substance, as "the basis (for regulation) is very thin and scientifically weak", and pointed out that a decision would "affect the whole world". In response to a question after his speech, he also said that a final decision should have been taken in December last year.

 

This is a new downstream risk surfacing in response to environmental risks such as the depletion of water resources in producing countries, soil contamination and air pollution problems. While lithium is attracting attention as an indispensable mineral in the carbon-neutral era, the business environment surrounding lithium is getting more severe. How will the path of the 'century of lithium' be solidified? The image of the industry may be damaged if it is all about confrontation. A year and a half after the association was established, a major theme seems to be sitting squarely in front of it.

 

The EU has a comprehensive registration, evaluation, authorisation and restriction system for chemical substances called REACH (Registration, Evaluation, Authorisation and Restriction of Chemicals), which came into force on 1 June 2007. 1A category is its highest rank.

 

*International Lithium Association (ILIA).

Established in September 2021 as an international non-profit industry association. Its seven core founding members are ALBEMARLE, ALLKEM, AMG, GanfengLithium, Pilbara Minerals, SQM and Tianqi Lithium. These seven companies accounted for 85% of global lithium production in 22 years. The association's vision is to represent the interests of its members, address key technical and commercial challenges and support the industry's efforts to sustainably and responsibly supply high-quality lithium.

 

Related stories: EU-ECHA lithium compounds hazardous substances regulation study concerns Albemarle Corp's German plant closure

         Wind from Europe #273 Major concern for European industry: move by ECAH to regulate the use of lithium compounds.

   

Japanese site is here

 

 

(IRuniverse G・Mochizuki, translated by Marcin)

 

 

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