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EPA releases decision on antifouling paints

Media release

26 June 2013

New controls have been introduced to stop damage to our marine environment from toxic paints used as protective coatings on ships and other vessels, the Environmental Protection Authority (EPA) announced today.

Known as antifouling paints, they are applied to the hulls of vessels and to objects submerged in water to prevent aquatic organisms, or biofoul, from building up on the surface. They provide biosecurity protection from the introduction and transfer of indigenous and non-indigenous species in and around New Zealand waters as well as help to maintain a boat’s performance and integrity.

EPA General Manager Applications and Assessment, Sarah Gardner, says that while antifouling paints provide significant benefits, particularly as a biosecurity tool, some posed risks to human and environmental health that were considered too great to allow their continued import or manufacture.

“The EPA is responsible for ensuring that the risks to New Zealand’s environment, society and economy from such substances are minimised, without preventing access to the benefits they provide.”

“By their very nature, antifouling paints are toxic to aquatic organisms and have properties that are harmful to human health. The changes being announced today mean that marine life and the people that use these paints will be better protected.”

Robust assessment made

Mrs Gardner says that the EPA conducted a comprehensive and robust assessment, consulting widely with industry and users to get as full a picture as possible about these paints in a New Zealand context.

“Our reassessment examined the environmental, economic, social and cultural risks and benefits of antifouling paints,” she says. “This included their effect on Māori relationships with the environment in terms of the mauri of taonga flora and fauna species.”

“We analysed all antifouling paints currently approved for importation or manufacture in New Zealand,” says Mrs Gardner. “By taking a group approach we are able to provide certainty to importers and manufacturers about the products suitable for the New Zealand environment and provide consistent and effective controls to help them, and users, effectively prevent harm to the environment and to themselves.”

Risks outweighed benefits

“Our analysis showed that for approximately a third of the paints we assessed, the potential levels of risk associated with their lifecycle and use patterns outweighed any identified benefits, and in some cases significantly,” says Mrs Gardner. “An EPA committee, specially appointed to decide on the outcome of the antifouling paints reassessment, decided that their approvals should either be declined or be given on a time-limited basis.”

Mrs Gardner says the committee considered time-limited approvals of 4 or 10 years would allow industry time to source alternative, long-term solutions for aquatic pest control, including alternative paints.

New controls

“The remaining substances have been approved because the evidence showed the benefits they provide sufficiently outweigh their risks,” Mrs Gardner says. “However, controls have been put in place, some of which are new, to ensure they are used safely and that any residual negative effects are managed effectively.”

The new controls were developed in consultation with manufacturers, applicators, marina operators and the boating community.

Two new controls will directly protect people and the environment during the application and removal of the paints. A controlled work area must be established during application to prevent spray drift from reaching unintended areas and bystanders, and all antifouling waste from boat maintenance activities must be collected and disposed of in line with the disposal regulations set out under the Hazardous Substances and New Organisms (HSNO) Act.

Another control that clarifies the requirement for anyone using antifouling paints to wear appropriate personal protective equipment (PPE) is considered to be particularly crucial.

“Users are at risk of exposure to the harmful effects of these paints through inhalation or via contact with the skin,” says Mrs Gardner. “Wearing the correct PPE will significantly reduce that risk.”

Other new controls standardise the safety information provided for each substance, in the form of safety data sheets, that are supplied by importers, suppliers and manufacturers and are available at all times to users, as well as a requirement for a list of the new controls to appear on product labels.

Further information available

The changes to the approvals for antifouling paints in New Zealand will come into effect on the date specified in the decision.

To help manufacturers, importers and users understand what the changes mean to them and how they can comply with the new rules, the EPA is putting together a package of information which will be available later in 2013.

You can read the full decision and controls documents by clicking on the links below:

The decision

The controls appendix

Notes for Editors

Summary of decision

Each antifouling paint assessed contains one or more of a group of 14 active ingredients. The approvals relate to the paints containing these ingredients and as a consequence will affect the availability of certain paints.

• The approvals for paints containing one or more of 8 of the active ingredients have been retained, with additional controls added.

• Time-limited approvals of either 4 or 10 years have been given to paints containing one or more of 4 other active ingredients, with additional controls added.

• The approvals for paints containing 2 or more active ingredients have been declined.

The controls explained

Personal protective equipment (PPE)

Anyone handling or using antifouling paints must wear sufficient PPE to ensure they do not come into contact with, are exposed to, or inhale the substance.

Controlled work area and signage

Antifouling paints can be applied to a vessel by spraying but only within a controlled work area, where the method and location of paint application prevents off-target spray being deposited into the environment and bystanders from being involuntarily exposed. This area must be clearly signed.

Collection of substances from maintenance activities

Used antifouling paints removed from the hull of boats during maintenance present a risk to the terrestrial and aquatic environments.

Any person who removes an antifouling paint coating from the hull of a boat during maintenance activities must ensure that waste containing antifouling paint residue is collected and that it is disposed of in accordance with the Hazardous Substances (Disposal) Regulations 2001.

Additional labelling requirements

The product label provides a key method in ensuring that the end-user is aware of and can comply with the controls on that substance. The paint can only be supplied if the label states these controls and must include information about how the substance can be applied and how the waste should be disposed of.

Safety data sheets (SDS)

Manufacturers, suppliers or importers must be able to provide safety information about the substance in the form of a ’16-header’ safety data sheet (SDS). These data sheets must be available at all times to anyone involved in the manufacture, storage or use of the substance.

The SDS must include such information as a description of the hazards of the substance, the measures that need to be taken when handing and storing the substance, and how the substance should be disposed of.


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