The European Chemicals Agency, ECHA, have launched a public consultation on the reclassification of Methanol (CAS 67-56-1) to include Reproductive Toxicity Category 1B H360D. This consultation will close on 13 Dec 2013.

The Italian and Dutch Competent Authorities are proposing this additional classification, based on scientific evidence suggesting that methanol has adverse effects on the development of the unborn child. Several in vivo studies 1,2,3,4 show a strong correlation to foetal abnormalities when exposed to methanol. If accepted, methanol would be considered a Substance of Very High Concern (SVHC). It would also be added to the REACH Restriction List in Annex XVII, which covers consumer products.

There are 90 methanol plants worldwide, with a combined production capacity of 100 million metric tonnes, or 90 billion litres. Each day, more than 100,000 tonnes of methanol are used as a chemical feedstock or as a fuel. Methanol is one of the top 5 chemical commodities shipped around the world by volume, generating €36 billion in economic activity annually.

The reclassification of methanol is an important issue for anyone manufacturing or importing products containing methanol into the EU. Methanol is used in consumer products as broad as antifreeze, fuels, wastewater treatment, automotive care products and research laboratory chemicals, and is a feedstock for plastics, plywood, paints and explosives. Methanol is frequently abused by inhalation or orally, particularly by those with an alcohol addiction, leading to poisoning and possible death.

The consequence of this reclassification would be an immediate registration obligation for anyone having pre-registered methanol, bringing forward the 2018 deadline for substances under 100 tonnes per annum. Previously registered methanol would require an update to its Classification and Labelling (C&L), and most likely a Chemical Safety Report (CSR).

Methanol has previously been evaluated in 2012 by Poland, under the Community Rolling Action Plan (CoRAP), due to concerns surrounding human exposure leading to CMR (Carcinogenic, Mutagenic, and Reproductive Toxicity) effects. This evaluation is still on-going.

Source; ECHA announcement, with input from H2 Compliance Toxicologist and REACH experts. 1 Sweeting et al., 2011. 2Connelly and Rogers, 1997. 3Ward and Pollack, 1996. 4Burbacher et al., 2004.

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