Lead industry sponsored research helps improve regulations to protect European freshwater environment
Ground-breaking research funded over several years by the International Lead Association (ILA) has helped to shape important changes to the EU’s regulations on water quality and environmental quality standard (EQS) (1) .
Amendments to the Water Framework Directive and the Directive on Environmental Quality Standards, approved this month by the European Parliament, have been made thanks to new scientific data generated by independent researchers in projects sponsored by the ILA-funded International Lead Zinc Research Organization (ILZRO).
At the start of the process to revise the Directives, which began in 2006, lead was identified as a substance that required a substantive review. There were acknowledged gaps in the scientific information available to the regulators which may have resulted in an over-precautionary approach to the revision of water quality standards.
However a €1 million research project developed by scientists at ILZRO was able to provide new information on the effects of lead on freshwater environments and this was utilised by the regulatory community in its legislative review resulting in the adoption of a proposal that was based upon the latest scientific findings.
ILA Managing Director, Dr Andy Bush, said: “Thanks to the comprehensive research programme initiated by ILZRO these revised regulations are both protective of the aquatic environment and also balanced and proportionate for the lead industry.
“It means the industry can continue to provide lead for essential applications, such as lead-based batteries for vehicles without the restrictions of over-cautious standards.”
Data from the ILZRO-sponsored studies confirmed the important influence of water chemistry on the toxicological effects of lead on the aquatic environment (lakes, rivers, streams). The most important factor was found to be dissolved organic carbon (DOC) that typically is found as a result of the decomposition of dead organic matter, such as plants. Lead bound to DOC is not available to the animals and plants that live in the water and thus should not be toxic and this important concept was accepted in the regulatory review of the EQS for lead.
In addition research on the effects of other water chemistry factors, such as hardness or pH on lead toxicity has also been advanced. The so-called biotic-ligand models (BLM) allow regulators to predict the aquatic toxicity of different metals by having knowledge of local water conditions. The lead BLM can predict both acute (short term) and chronic (longer term) toxicity of lead to aquatic organisms and is currently being made available by ILA to scientists and regulators to help them protect our freshwater environment.
For more information on the significance of the lead BLM see the case study. (1) On the 1 July 2013 the European Parliament adopted the new list of priority substances and environmental quality standards for the protection of surface waters in EU (646 votes in favour, 51 against and 14 abstentions). The Commission proposal amends the Water Framework Directive (2000/60/EC) and the Directive on Environmental Quality Standards (2008/105/EC) and EU Member States will now have two years to transpose the Directives into National Law. For further information contact: Bob Tolliday, ILA Communications Manager, Tolliday@ila-lead.org tel: +44 (0) 20 7833 8090 EndNotes to editorsAbout the ILAThe International Lead Association is a membership body that supports companies involved in the mining, smelting, refining and recycling of lead. The ILA represents the producers of about 3 million tonnes of lead. With offices in the UK and USA the ILA provides a range of technical, scientific and communications support and is focused on all aspects of the industry’s safe production, use and recycling of lead and helps funds bodies such as the International Lead Management Center and ILZRO. The Lead REACH Consortium is a stand-alone project of ILA-Europe and its activities are funded by 100 member companies. ILA also supports the Advanced Lead-Acid Battery Consortium, which manages the research, development and promotion of lead-based batteries for markets such as hybrid electric vehicles, start-stop automotive systems and grid-scale energy storage applications. Visit www.ila-lead.org