On 1 July 2013 the Biocidal Products Regulation (BPR) came into effect in all EU member states. In this article, WPA Chief Executive Gordon Ewbank explains the impact of the BPR on the wood treatment industry and whether BREXIT will result in any change in its implementation.

The BPR applies to a very wide range of different products used by industry, professionals and the public right across Europe. The common factor is that all incorporate ‘biocides’ in their finished form. Biocides are chemical substances or microorganisms intended to destroy, deter, render harmless, or exert a controlling effect on any biological organism considered harmful .Wood preservatives are just one group of products within the scope of the BPR.

Under BPR, all active substances, including the fungicides and insecticides in wood preservatives are approved at EU level while preservative formulations incorporating those active substances are authorised for use by an individual member state. For example, many water- based preservatives for treating fencing and landscaping timbers contain copper compounds. Copper compounds for wood preservation have been approved at EU level
for some time now and, with the permission of the data owners, can be used in formulations for which authorisation is sought in any member state.

The authorisation of a wood preservative is carried out at individual member state level by
a national competent authority. In the UK, this role is performed by the Health & safety Executive. It is a legal offence to place a product containing biocides on the market in any EU member state without that country’s prior authorisation. A wood preservative formulation can only be authorised once all the active substances in that formulation have been approved at EU level.

Costly and lengthy approval process

The efficacy, health and environmental impact data portfolios required under BPR
for assessment and approval of both active ingredients at EU level and preservative formulations at member state level are very extensive and detailed. The investment in time and money to compile a data portfolio is considerable – especially when approval is sought in a number of EU Member States. Once a preservative formulation has been submitted for approval experience shows that obtaining a decision can be a long drawn out process sometimes taking years. Since the BPR came into force throughout the EU in July 2013 the impact on the development of existing and new preservative formulations is substantial. Every wood preservative manufacturer Europe has been affected. As the list of EU approved active substances available to manufacturers becomes more restricted under the BPR and member state approval timescales remain unpredicatable the opportunity to innovate is reduced significantly. Inevitably this will result in changes to the formulated product options available to the market, either though the introduction of new active substances capable of meeting BPR approval criteria or some rationalisation of the product ranges.

Transition to the BPR regime

Preservative formulations approved under earlier UK legislation, the Control of Pesticides Regulations (CoPR), and already on the UK market when the BPR became law continue to be legally on the UK market until all active substances are approved under the BPR, according to a programme of active substance reviews set by the European Commission.

Once all actives are authorised under BPR, then the manufacturers are obliged to seek authorisation of their products that are formulated with these actives. . Some copper- containing preservative products are still supplied to UK customers with CoPR approval while waiting for all active substances to be approved at EU level. This transition period is approaching its completion over the next year or so.

Labelling treated articles

For wood treated in the EU with a BPR-authorised preservative, the BPR labelling rules for so-called ‘treated articles’ have been in place for several years and pack labelling is now common. Treated wood should be labelled as follows:

• A statement that the treated article incorporates biocidal products

• The biocidal property 1 • The name of all active substances contained in the wood
• Instructions for use, including any precautions to be taken because of the preservative used

• Labelling shall be clearly visible, easily legible and appropriately durable

• Where necessary because of the size or the function of the treated article, the labelling shall be printed on the packaging, on the instructions for use or on the warranty

BREXIT and the preservative treatment of wood

Treaters and users of preservative pre- treated wood (whether treated in the UK or imported already treated) should see no impact on their practices and availability of treated wood from a regulatory viewpoint if and when the UK leaves the EU.

In the event of leaving with a deal, existing arrangements will continue pending final UK-EU agreement on trading and other relationships. In a no-deal scenario then a fully independent regulatory system managed by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) and based, at least initially, on existing EU rules will be implemented.

Wood treated in another EU member state and imported into the UK should have, or be accompanied by, paperwork with the treated articles information and that will satisfy deal or no-deal scenarios.

Wood preservative manufacturers will have work to do to transition to any new UK arrangements but that is not expected to affect treatment and supply and use of treated wood
in the short term. Some active substances have been re-classified and that may affect their use in preservative formulations in the future, but it is anticipated that manufacturers will have alternatives available.

In the event of withdrawal of authorisation of a particular preservative, the BPR makes provision for an extended period for use and disposal of preservative solution and for production and supply of treated wood so that an orderly transition is achieved. It is extremely unlikely that any existing stocks of treated wood will be banned from sale during such a transition.

The WPA continues to monitor all developments in the regulation of the wood treating industry and the preservative products approved for use in the UK as a service to its members and strategic partner organisations like TTF.

The Associations new website is a source of best practice information and guidance to anyone involved in specifying or using treated wood as the most sustainable building and landscaping material available.


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