“This is the first time that UBA is enacting a clause in the Detergents Regulation, which provides for a temporary ban on cleaning agents and detergents when there is proof of risk to the environment or health“, said UBA President Jochen Flasbarth.
UBA has advised the monitoring authorities in the federal states to check for compliance with the ban on import and trade of the detergent. UBA has also advised the EU Commission and other Member States so that they might also initiate similar measures.
This move is founded on the position taken by the Federal Institute for Risk Assessment (BfR) on detergents with nitric acid content. The conclusion reached in the announcement is that certain detergents with a nitric acid content of over 20% harbour a disproportionately high health risk for consumers“, says BfR President Professor Dr. Dr. Andreas Hensel. Besides its corrosive properties upon direct contact with skin or if swallowed, there is also a health risk if nitric acid vapours or nitrous gases (e,g. NO2) released from nitric acid are inhaled.
Health risks of detergents with nitric acid content
The use of nitric acid-based detergents can result in formation of worrisome concentrations of nitric acid and nitrous gases in indoor air. Under certain circumstances these substances can have a serious impact on health, as shown by BfR modelling. German poison information centres have already reported 134 cases of serious health damage as a result of contact with nitric acid-based descaler and rust removers.
Inhalation of nitric acid vapours can trigger irritations of the mucous membranes in the respiratory tract, bronchitis, pneumonia, and can lead to toxic pulmonary oedema within a typical latency period of 3 to 30 hours.
The formation of nitrous gases poses yet another health risk as they can release nitric acid under certain conditions. The compounds in the gas mixture can have acutely toxic or carcinogenic effects.