Europe considers classifying Lithium as toxic


In 2021, the French government put forward proposals to classify lithium carbonate, lithium hydroxide and lithium chloride as Category 1A reproductive toxicants.

Lithium as a toxic substance, a counterproductive measure?

Lithium is used in particular for the manufacture of batteries.

At the end of 2021, the European Agency’s risk assessment committee accepted the French proposals. The first bill reclassifying lithium compounds is expected to be released between October and December.

A category 1A classification makes a substance eligible as a substance of very high concern. This leads to a restriction of its use by the EU Chemical Strategy for Sustainable Development.

Several industry players opposed the bill.

Roland Chavasse, Secretary General of the International Lithium Association explains:

“The risk is that if lithium components are wrongly reclassified in this category, it would introduce uncertainty in planning the long-term commercial viability of the investments around it.”

The EU aims to become self-sufficient in the production of lithium-ion batteries for electric vehicles by 2025. It is also targeting a domestic lithium production of 80% in the next five years. It also seeks to achieve 35% lithium recycling by 2029.

Thus, industry believes that such a proposal would be counterproductive, and would hamper the EU’s objectives.

Eurobat has asked the European Commission to reconsider its decision to classify lithium and its components in category 1A of toxic substances.

EU objectives hampered?

A number of industry players, including Vulcan, opposed the proposal and made this known directly to the EU.

Their main concern is that such a classification would create market uncertainty.

There would also be insecurity about applications, industrial processes and plant requirements. This could deter investors from committing to Europe at a crucial time for the lithium value chain.

Europe’s main strategic objective is a domestic battery supply chain.

The industry is concerned that a reclassification would add a lot of long-term financial uncertainty to massive investors. This would push them to invest in other regions.

This could possibly push lithium refining to China. This would make the strategic autonomy of EU battery manufacturers more difficult.

Finally, it could create security of supply problems in the region.

A lithium producer source also stated that classification would only be a first step, with many possible outcomes in terms of risk management measures.

However, if accepted, the European Commission could potentially grant special status to certain countries.

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