The European Union Risk Assessment on Zinc and Zinc Compounds: The Process and the Facts

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A risk assessment on zinc and zinc compounds was carried out within the framework of Council Regulation 793/93/EEC on Existing Chemicals. This risk assessment basically followed the European Union (EU) technical guidance documents (TGDs). These TGDs are built on the current knowledge on quantitative risk assessments, mainly for organic chemicals. This article describes the tailor-made approach for the zinc risk assessment. This work lasted almost a decade and involved the contributions of all EU member states and industry, who discussed the risk assessment during technical meetings. The risk assessment is initially based on scientific findings but is interrelated with pragmatic considerations. It follows a comprehensive approach, covering both environmental and human health. In the environmental part, new methodologies were developed to deal with the natural background of zinc, essentiality, speciation, and the use of species sensitivity distributions. The major results and the process of drawing conclusions of the risk assessment are outlined: potential environmental risks of zinc and zinc compounds may occur at local and regional scales in surfacewater, sediment, and soil. No potential health risks were identified for consumers and man indirectly exposed via the environment. For workers, potential health risks were identified only for zinc oxide and zinc chloride.

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