Uses and Properties
Aromatics get their name from their distinctive aromatic or perfumed smell.
Almost all aromatics come from crude oil, although small quantities are made from coals. The main substances in this group are benzene, toluene and xylenes. They are used as starting materials for a wide range of consumer products: clothing, pharmaceuticals, cosmetics, computers, paints, vehicle components, cooking utensils, household fabrics, sports equipment, etc. Products made using aromatics can reduce energy consumption and so have a positive impact on the environment.
The Aromatics Producers Association (APA) is a trade association bringing together the European manufacturers of aromatics.
Issues and Regulations
The LOA (Lower Olefins Aromatics) Consortium was formed, through which manufacturers have joined efforts to prepare by 30 November 2010 consistent registration dossiers covering 130 to 140 substances within 20 categories.
- Follow-up of the Convention on the Collection, Deposit and Reception of Waste produced during Navigation on the Rhine and Inland Waterways (CDNI) legislation on degassing of barges
- Assess the impact of the fuel legislation on aromatics producers
- Follow-up of the Common Waste Gas Treatment in the Chemical Sector (WGC) Best Available Techniques (BAT) reference documents (BREF): no quantitative BAT-associated emission levels (AEL) were determined for aromatics plants, but it could be included later in the WGC BREF
- Manage research projects within the science programme. This includes the follow-up of proposed new substances into environmental regulations like Water Framework Directive (toluene)
- Co-ordinate with Concawe the analysis and evaluation of epidemiological studies concerning benzene and its carcinogenic effects
- Benzene OEL: in March 2018, the ECHA Committee for Risk Assessment (RAC) proposed in a scientific opinion to lower significantly the occupational exposure limit (OEL) for benzene in the CMD (Carcinogenic and Mutagenic Directive). To prepare for the tripartite discussion between members states, trade unions and employers, the Aromatics Producers Association (APA) together with Concawe , the fuel refining research body, commisioned Triskelion to carry out a socio-economic analysis (SEA). The study shows that reducing the benzene OEL to such an extent would be extremely costly for the industry and would be almost technically and practically impossible.
The RAC proposal is now being discussed at the ACSH (advisory committee on Safety and Health at Work) WPC (Working Party Chemicals) made up of representatives from member states, trade unions and employers. A SEA must be carried out to support the debate and the European Commission has mandated to a consortium led by COWI, a Danish consultant. The industry has provided the results of its own SEA to COWI.
Over the past year, an expert team of toxicologists from APA and Concawe members has continued the work initiated by RAC. RAC’s conclusion was that the risk of cancer due to benzene is limited under a certain threshold: there is no (significant) residual cancer risk below its proposed OEL. However, RAC did not provide a benzene-exposure cancer risk evaluation at higher values than its proposal. The industry evaluated the studies considered by RAC taking into account their quality and accuracy and found that the risk of cancer was insignificant up to an OEL of 0.5 ppm, ten times higher than the one proposed by RAC. However pending clarification related to bone marrow sensitivity, industry can accept to apply an additional assessment factor of 2 to give an OEL of 0.25 ppm. The industry is currently writing a scientific paper that will be submitted to a peer reviewed scientific journal.
In conclusion, the industry believes that an OEL lower than 0.25 ppm would not provide any additional health benefits to protect workers against cancer, while forcing them to use more respiratory personnel equipment which can increase safety risks. In addition, it would result in uncertainties about the technical feasibility and incur excessive costs for the industry.
For further information, please read the industry OEL proposal and position paper.
Chairman: Bertrand Gyselynck, Total
Vice-Chair: Thomas Gallagher, Dow