EU Commission declines to authorise antifouling ingredient

A victory for environmental protection: Cybutryn no longer to be used on boat hulls starting January 2017

blue rowboatsClick to enlarge
Effective antifouling coatings can also do without biocides
Source: weerawath /

Cybutryn, better known by its trade name Irgarol®, may no longer be used as the active substance in antifouling products after 27 January 2017. This is the result of a decision which the EU Commission had already reached on 27 January of this year. Antifouling substances inhibit the growth (fouling) of single-celled organisms, algae and small organisms such as barnacles and mussels on ship hulls through their slow release from paints and into the surrounding water. Once in the water they also cause harm to the local ecosystems, aquatic plants, copepods and algae. A high concentration of biocides is introduced to water bodies when newly coated boats are launched into water in spring.

The German Environment Agency (UBA) has continuously applied its expertise in the substance evaluation process, having issued a warning about its use as early as September 2007. An UBA project to monitor water bodies carried out in 2005 – 2008 measured effect concentrations of Cybutryn. UBA’s artificial stream and pond system, which can simulate conditions in ponds, lakes and rivers, proved that the substance has an ecotoxicological effect on aquatic plants and microorganisms in inland waters. Cybutryn will become the first active ingredient in an antifouling product to be banned on grounds on its unacceptable environmental risks.

What must boat owners and buyers now keep in mind? Any remaining quantities of antifouling products with Cybutryn must be disposed by the 27 January 2017 cut-off date. UBA recommends taking these products to recycling centres or other problem substance collection points. Consumers can look up whether an antifouling product contains Cybutryn on the website of the Federal Institute for Occupational Health and Safety (BAuA). They should enquire about the antifouling coating when purchasing a boat, because after 28 January 2017 new boats may not be treated with Cybutryn. Any craft which are bought before this date are not subject to the constraint. Any owner of a boat which has already been treated can continue to travel in European waters.

In general, boat owners should try to avoid biocidal antifouling coatings as much as possible in order to avoid harming aquatic ecosystems. Boats which navigate lakes and rivers in particular can be maintained in good condition without antifouling agents since several effective antifouling coatings now exist on the market which do not contain biocides.

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