Copenhagen declaration on organic solvents and water based paints

In the year 2004, as part of the European Health and Safety Week "Building in
safety”, the Danish Painters' Union held an experts' conference on organic
solvents and water based paints. Participating were some 40 representatives of
trade unions from 10 European countries, the Nordic Federation of Building and
Wood Workers (NFBWW) and the European Federation of Building and Wood Workers
(EFBWW). Also participating were a Member of the European Parliament and
representatives of research institutions and governments.

The aim of the conference was to

  • Make an appraisal of the discussion on organic solvents within the trade of
  • Exchange experiences on occupational health
  • Assess the need of European regulation on the protection of workers being
    exposed to organic solvents

Out put of the conference
The conference presentations and discussions showed, that for a long time the
organic solvents have been known as harmful to the workers. Unfortunately,
several countries are not aware or do not recognize all the harmful effects of
organic solvents, including the OPS (Organic Psycho Syndrome).

Still painters in Europe are being exposed to organic solvents. In a number of
European countries it is common to use paints based on organic solvents. The
European Deco Paint Directive (2004/42/CE) will in the future reduce the amount
of solvents in paints, but still there will be plenty of products based on high
contents of solvents. To say it short, the conference showed, that organic
solvent based paints are still a serious problem for painters in the
construction sector and that there are no general indications, that the
problems are going to be solved. On top of this, the conference showed, that
painters are at risks for heavily exposure to organic solvents, for instance
floor treatment and painting steel constructions.

Several countries have succeeded in improving the use of water based paints, as
well as succeeded in making rules reducing the use of paints based on organic
solvents. The paint technology is nowadays so advanced, that there generally
speaking are no disadvantages in the use of water based paints. Replacement of
solvent based paints with water based paints is a straightforward way to
improve the painters' health.

A general conclusion of the conference was, that organic solvents is a mutual
European problem, which needs to be solved by a mutual European solution.

The conference confirmed the

  • IFBWW declaration on organic solvents, 1996
  • EFBWW organic solvents policy, 2002, see annex 2

On this background, the European Community is called upon to take actions in
the field of organic solvents and water based paints. European legislation on
the protection of workers being exposed to paints based on organic solvents is

Further Information

AplusA-online.de - Source: European Agency for Safety and Health at Work