The European Commission has adopted a decision to add creosote to Annex 1 of the biocides Directive and requiring industrial uses of creosote to be authorised from 1 May 2013. The carcinogenic substance has been banned in consumer applications since 2003, but it has continued to be used to treat wooden railway sleepers, telegraph poles, and agricultural and industrial fencing.
As a mixture of hundreds of distinct compounds, including bi- and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs), concerns over the human health and environmental affects of creosote have grown. However, the Commission says life cycle analyses indicate that in certain applications no appropriate alternatives exist. As a result EU member states may authorise its placing on the market for clearly defined uses where no alternatives less damaging to the environment are available. In such cases, strict conditions apply, including measures to protect workers from exposure during treatment and handling of treated wood. The stakeholder consultation, which was part of the decision-making process, indicated that there are socio-economic benefits of using creosote in certain applications.
Now member states must adopt and publish national laws that comply with the Directive by 30 April 2012 and the legislation will apply from 1 May 2013.