AkzoNobel has decided to add antimony trioxide (ATO) to its list of restricted substances, limiting the levels permitted in the company’s products, dependent on factors such as solvent dispersion, product type and end use. The multinational paints and coatings producer reviews chemicals under its priority substances programme which uses a risk assessment procedure to determine whether reduction, restriction or phase-out is necessary. Identification of priority substances for assessment is understood to be informed by their inclusion on internationally published lists such as those of the Globally Harmonized System and the US National Toxicology Programme (NTP).
ATO has been, and continues to be, scrutinised under various review processes. For example, a substance evaluation of ATO and several related compounds under the European Chemicals Agency’s REACH programme is expected to see final decisions made in 2020. ATO was also recently assessed under the EU’s Restriction of Hazardous Substances (RoHS) directive (concerning its use in electronic and electrical equipment), but a ban was not recommended. In 2018, the US NTP recommended listing ATO in its Report on Carcinogens, as it is expected to be carcinogenic to humans based on inhalation studies showing evidence of carcinogenicity in rodents. Whilst the Report on Carcinogens has no direct legal impact on the use of ATO, it is possible that its inclusion, along with the other regulatory attention that it has received, could result in some end-users pre-empting legislation and moving towards substitution in their products.
The main use of ATO is in flame retardant formulations where it acts synergistically with halogenated compounds. Its use in paints and coatings represents a much smaller end-market and so the AkzoNobel restrictions are unlikely to have a significant impact on overall antimony demand. Additionally, complete and effective substitution of antimony in some key flame retardant applications is generally considered to be difficult.
Roskill closely monitors regulatory developments in the antimony market, as well as trends across the entire supply chain and will publish the 14th edition of its market report, Antimony: Outlook to 2030, later this year.