The Biocidal Products Directive (98/8/EC) sets out a 10-year programme to review the environmental and health hazards of all existing biocidal active substances on the EU market as at May 2000. Twenty-three product types including wood preservatives are listed in the Directive. The first stage required the ‘notification’ or ‘identification’ of existing substances and was completed in January 2003. Any substance neither identified nor notified can no longer be used in biocidal products.

Substances which were identified but not notified can only be used in wood preservatives until September 1, 2006. Notified substances may remain in use until their safety has been reviewed at EU level. For wood preservatives this will also be September 1, 2006. Biocidal products, ie wood preservatives containing approved active substances, will then need authorisation at national level to allow placing on the market.

For wood preservatives, 81 active substances were notified to the Commission but only 38 dossiers have been submitted to the authorities for assessment. The assessment of these dossiers is now under way and if accepted the substance will be listed on Annex 1. If not accepted, it will have to be withdrawn from the market. The mechanics for such withdrawal are being worked out by the Commission.

Cost implications

The number of supported active substances for wood preservation reflects a significant reduction in those available pre-BPD and the main reason for this is the huge costs in what is a relatively small market. It is estimated that to generate the required data and gain authorisation is between €2.5-5m for a single active substance. This is increased by a further €500,000 for each biocidal product approval throughout the EU. Active substances which have been notified but are no longer being supported include arsenic pentoxide, chromium compounds, PCP, TBTO and zinc borate. The suppliers of these substances have taken the view that the potential returns from these substances simply do not warrant the investment. In the market, it means that such traditional wood preservatives as CCA, CCB, and CCP will have to be withdrawn towards the end of 2006.

However, the mainstays of the current UK market are all being supported. Dossiers for copper compounds, IPBC, triazoles, permethrin, borates and creosote are amongst those active substances which are now being assessed. The copper compound dossier has been submitted by the Copper Task Force to the French authorities and has been deemed to be complete. The Task Force is confident of gaining approval.

Although the review process is well under way there are still a number of issues which require resolution. For wood preservatives, the development of guidelines to measure emissions from treated timber in service have yet to be validated. Such guidelines, developed within the OECD framework, will hopefully be available during 2005.

Currently, it is the industry view that the Directive provides insufficient protection of data for those companies who are submitting dossiers, and a legal challenge is being made against the Commission on this issue. Lack of flexibility and excessive bureaucracy in many member states is creating an additional burden on industry and it is a major concern that some states may not accept the assessment of others.

A fundamental principle within the BPD is mutual recognition across member states and failure of this principle will be a severe blow to industry and the Commission.

So what are the future implications for the wood protection industry? Certainly there will be a much reduced availability of active substances. It is unlikely there will be any new ‘dedicated’ wood preservatives. Any ‘new’ active substances will be derived from other industries such as plant protection and we are already seeing new and exciting potential candidates which will be available to the wood preservation market post-2006. However, there will be fewer suppliers of active substances and unfortunately due to the high burden of support, costs are likely to increase.

However, on the positive side we should see increased public confidence in the health and environmental properties of wood preservatives and treated wood. The market for treated wood has increased significantly over the past 15 years, mainly due to growth in the construction and leisure areas. As long as the specifier and consumers are provided with a first class durable and attractive product, and can have confidence with its safety in use, there is no reason why the growth of treated wood products should not continue throughout the EU.