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European health directive to trigger cement price hike

CEMENT PRODUCERS have warned that their prices will rise late next year as new European health and safety regulations begin to bite.

As NCEI went to press the Internal Market Council of Ministers was expected to approve a directive which would severely limit the soluble chromium content of all European cements.

The move is designed to cut the incidence of cement-induced eczema and dermatitis among concrete workers.

But most cements will be unable to meet the new limits without using special additives.

This will push up production costs.

'A vast increase in demand for the additive is inevitable, ' said British Cement Association (BCA) head of external affairs Martin Casey.

'This means higher production costs, not to mention the capital cost of installing the equipment to add the additive.'

The new equipment will be needed to reduce the content of soluble chromium in cement.

Denmark has been working to the new soluble chromium levels of no more than two parts per million for 20 years.

All German-bagged cement now contains an admixture if the natural soluble chromium level of the cement is above 2ppm.

Casey said the BCA's position was that the most cost effective way to cut the risk of 'chrome dermatitis' was to strictly enforce personal protective equipment regulations.

'Another problem is that there is no test available that can measure soluble chromium content in all types of cement, ' he said.

'A new test is urgently being developed in Europe, but it's unlikely to be ready until at least two years after the new regulations come into force.'

The European Commission's committee on toxicity, ecotoxicity and the environment has sought to justify the new directive by comparing major civil engineering projects in Britain and Denmark.

It has cited the differences in levels of cement induced skin reaction reported by workers on the Channel Tunnel and on Denmark's Storebaelt megaproject during the 1990s.

During the building of the Channel Tunnel around 20% of the workers developed skin troubles, and more than 330 were diagnosed as suffering from chrome dermatitis.

But on Storebaelt only two of the 3,000 workers are reported as having developed dermatitis.

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