FRANKFURT, Germany—New regulations introduced in Germany would stop the use of rubber-based components, including seals, in drinking water systems beginning in 2021.
Under the guidelines, all chemicals covered by the EU's REACH chemical safety regulations require a new permit governing which materials can be used in drinking water systems, according to Boris Engelhardt, CEO of German rubber industry association the WDK.
The Berlin government, he said, has drawn up a list of substances, which require proof to show that they are not harmful in drinking-water applications.
"If you don't prove that, you don't get a listing," Engelhardt explained. "And, so far, we don't have listings for crucial chemicals used in the rubber industry."
For example, he said there are still no crosslinking agents, such as sulfur and peroxides, on the approved list.
Under the original schedule, all unlisted substances would be prohibited from use in drinking water systems from the start of 2017. But this has proved impractical and, it seems, that the industry now has until 2021 to achieve compliance.
One of the main challenges is the cost of testing: it makes no economic sense for companies supplying the industry with small quantities of a product, to run tests costing as much as $530,000 per substance.
The WDK tried to run the tests, starting with a peroxide crosslinking agent, as an example to establish the costs, Engelhardt reporting: "So far, we have invested more than €100,00 ($118,000) and we are still not allowed to put anything into this list."
Adding that the quality of drinking water in Germany is probably among the highest anywhere in the world, Engelhardt concluded "if we don't meet the standards set up by the German government, nobody else on the globe will.
"Basically, it is just insane. You won't have the chance to use sealing in drinking water systems from 2021 when this becomes a reality."
This story is based on interview with Boris Engelhardt, chief executive of the WDK, which was published in July/Aug issue of European Rubber Journal magazine.