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Zinc Update

An Information Document by the Zinc Information Centre

Zinc, the Construction Products Directive and CEN TC 351

According to the essential requirements of the 1998 EU Construction Products Directive (CPD), construction work must be 'designed and built in such a way that it will not be a threat to the hygiene or health of the occupants or neighbours'. The CEN Technical Committee 351 (TC 351) has recently been asked to develop the methods of testing for release of dangerous substances so that this essential requirement can be met.

There maybe some concern surrounding the inclusion of zinc in the provisional list of substances 'which are deemed relevant' to the requirements of the CPD. This list has been provided by DG Enterprise to CEN TC 351 in order that it can develop the necessary test methods.

Zinc is one of the hundreds of substances which are proposed to be tested for, once CEN TC 351 has drawn up the standards and test protocols. This does not mean that zinc is a threat to health or environment, only that it may be tested for.

The other substances to be tested for include almost all metals and chemicals used in construction products. Zinc is not targeted specifically.

The list of substances which are 'deemed relevant' was drawn up in 2005. The Zinc Industry has strongly objected to the inclusion of zinc in the list as it is a metal that is essential for human health and is not classified as dangerous for the environment under EU Directive 67/548/EC (the classification and labelling directive). Industry is awaiting a response to these objections.

Users of construction products containing zinc can be reassured by the fact that a recently completed EU Zinc Risk Assessment Report, and subsequent Zinc Risk Reduction Strategy, show that there is no risk to human health, or the environment, from the use of these products.


General Manager



BSI and the Highways Agency have given permission for publication, on this web site, of the following extract from a Private Circulation letter dated 1st August 2007, reference B/509_07_0050 .

Dear Member,

Dangerous Substances - Comment from HA

Please see below for your information comments from the Highways Agency regarding the above:

I have contacted my colleagues at the HA and would comment as follows:
Although zinc is an issue in relation to highway runoff and potential impacts on receiving water ecology and in some instances drinking water quality, this may be a result in part from weathering of zinc (galvanised) crash barriers, sign posts and gantries but is most probably due to the wear of vehicles on our roads. Therefore it would seem that the run off from safety barriers etc. is not a significant cause for concern. From the book "Dangerous Properties of Industrial Materials," aluminium and zinc are described as 'generally of low toxicity'. Certain salts can cause vomiting if ingested but children would have to lick a significant amount of barriers or posts before they had taken in enough to be ill, and even then this is not life threatening. The H&S precautions for aluminium and zinc are imposed to prevent exposure to these metals in vapour or airborne dust; the hazards are associated with fabrication and application not with 'absorbing it through contact'. Children are more likely to be ill from the effects of licking the pollutants on top of the galvanising, like bird or dog mess or urine or airborne contaminants, than the actual galvanising. The same would apply to lighting columns and other street furniture.
In relation to road markings the HA have issued CHE Memos on glass beads to highlight the issues of arsenic trioxide, lead and antimony. These are now embodied in SHW and NGSHW clause 1212 of the MCHW Vol 0 to be published in November 2007 and therefore a process is in place to limit the content of these dangerous substances. Dangerous substances are also referred to in BS EN 1423 Annex ZA on glass beads and antiskid aggregates.
It would appear from the feedback that there are already controls in place to deal with dangerous substances and public safety is at the forefront of the HA thinking.

If I receive any further information I will pass it on. I hope this answers your enquiry.

Danny Ruth Technical Advisor
Vehicle Restraints and Risk Management Team Highways Agency"
Yours sincerely
Committee Service Centre