EU directive 2003/53/EC on chromium in cement
The EC directive 2003/53/EC prohibits the supply or use of cement which has a chromium VI concentration of more than 2 parts per million. As well as cement itself, the restriction applies to a wide range of products that contain cement such as mortars, grouts, tile adhesives etc.
This legislation is being introduced to help prevent allergic contact dermatitis, a potentially serious condition that can lead to permanent disability, which can occur when wet cement containing chromium VI comes into contact with the skin. While construction workers such as bricklayers, tile layers, and workers laying concrete floors are likely to be at most risk, this condition can occur in members of the public who use cement or products containing cement without taking proper precautions.
Origin of chromium in cement
In production of cement, Cr present in raw material is, during clinker burning, partially oxidized to toxic hexavalent form.
The directive 2003/53/EC
In particular, the Directive:
prohibits the placing on the market or use of cement or cement preparations which contain, when hydrated, more than 2 parts per million of soluble chromium VI;
requires that where cement or cement preparations have a soluble chromium VI content of 2 ppm or less, when hydrated, due to the presence of a reducing agent, their packaging should be marked with information on the period of time for which the reducing agent remains effective (i.e. packing date, suggested storage conditions and suggested storage period);
and permits the placing on the market and use of cement and cement preparations not meeting the two requirements above only when it is for use in totally automated and fully enclosed processes, where there is no possibility of contact with the skin.
In order to be compliant with the legislation, manufacturers will have to add a reducing agent to their products to bring chromium concentrations down to permitted levels (2 parts per million). In addition, they must provide information on safe shelf life, as the reducing agent is only effective for a limited period. Although virtually all uses of cement are covered by this ban, cement and cement products produced and used in controlled and closed systems are exempt from this restriction.