EU Antifouling Approval for Copper Compounds

Following scientific evaluation of the use of dicopper oxide, copper thiocyanate and coated copper flake as antifouling substances within the EU Biocidal Products Regulation 528/2012, the ECHA Biocidal Product Committee has determined that these copper compounds are approved for use as active substances in commercial and yacht (leisure/pleasure craft) antifouling products for application by both professional and non-professional users. These compounds are the only copper compounds to have received approval to date. Compounds include the forms of copper most commonly used in current antifouling paints, either as sole biocide or in conjunction with a co-biocide.

The Implementing Regulations covering this decision are available on the EU website

The regulations next require that manufacturers of antifouling paints submit applications for approval of all their copper-based antifouling products by 1st January 2018. Those products containing zinc pyrithione will have a later deadline. Paints must be approved by each country in which it will be marketed.

The Biocidal Products Regulation requires the evaluation by European authorities of all categories of biocides and biocidal products, existing or new to the market, over a timetabled period of years. Antifouling substances form one category of these biocidal products.

UK authorities have confirmed that Brexit and the anticipated invoking of 'Article 50' will have no future affect because it has already been decided that the UK will be adopting these regulations.

Copper in various forms has been used historically to protect vessels from fouling, and remains a mainstay ingredient for antifouling paints. Fouling of vessels results in loss of performance, increased fuel consumption. There are over 4000 fouling organisms present in the waters of the world.  These are classified into hard organisms (such as barnacles) and soft organisms (grasses and algae). Thus, an effective antifouling must have a broad spectrum of activity and this activity must be continuously available to protect against biofouling. 

The Copper Antifouling Environmental Programme (CAEP) is sponsored by five companies who manufacture copper and copper compounds for use as active ingredients in antifouling paints.

Copper is an essential component of effective antifouling products, necessary to maintain safe and economic shipping.

The CAEP is intended to facilitate:

  1. the generation and gathering of scientific data on environmental and human exposure associated with the use of copper-based antifouling products
  2. the participation in industry and public debate regarding the use of copper-based antifouling products
  3. communication and dissemination of balanced, scientifically accurate information