INTERVIEW: Nanoco talks about cadmium regulation in aftermath of EU vote

EU parliamentNanoco, the manufacturer of Cd-free quantum dots, was recently victorious in its campaign to topple a new piece of legislation that would have made the use of cadmium-based quantum dots in TV screens legal until June 2017 in the EU. Michael Edelman, the company’s CEO, talks to NMN.

The proposal which was drawn up by the EU Commission came before the EU Parliament earlier this month and was roundly opposed in a vote that ended with 618 to 33 and 28 abstentions. The debate was previously covered on New Materials News at length.

Throughout the run up to the vote Nanoco argued that cadmium-based quantum dot technology presented a risk to human and environmental health.

In the aftermath of the vote we caught up with Michael Edelman, CEO at Nanoco, to ask him about its outcome, whether there is a toxicity problem in the quantum dot industry, and whether the EU vote paves the way for further Government action in North America and Asia.

NMN: Why do you think your argument won at the end of the day? Do you think this argument has now been put to bed?

The Commission proposals were originally well intended, but they did not keep up with the rapid pace of development in this technology. We would have preferred for the Commission to have changed its decision once it was clear that the commercialisation of cadmium-free QD technology had effectively overtaken cadmium-based technology some time ago.

However, we are delighted that the European Parliament were able to take the new evidence into account and give this clear message that the exemption for cadmium is no longer justified under the terms of the RoHS directive. It is hard to argue that cadmium free technology is not commercially available when you can buy it on the high street and it looks amazing!

This overwhelming vote by the EU Parliament has sent a very clear message to the Commission, and to the display and lighting industries, that the future of Europe is cadmium free. However, some companies are heavily invested in cadmium technology and are likely to try to fight this democratic decision for economic reasons.

We expect that there will be a further technical review by the Commission in the coming months to hear requests for new exemptions for cadmium. However, we are confident of the end result.

We regret that, to comply with the rules of the RoHS directive, there will be a grace period before the old exemption is fully withdrawn. We expect that this period will be 12-18 months, but manufacturers should be making plans to withdraw their products from the market over this time.

NMN: During your campaign a number of industry chiefs pointed out that some Cadmium-free developers of quantum dots still use indium phosphide which is also a carcinogen. Does Nanoco use indium phospides in its products?

Nanoco has developed its Cd-free QD quantum dot products using an alternative semiconductor alloy, which has been subjected to regulatory testing and found to be non-toxic and non-carcinogenic. Medical testing has also shown our materials to be non-harmful at concentrations where cadmium based QD damage 70 per cent of cells. In fact, we are working with University College London to develop our products for clinical use in surgery to fight against cancer.

NMN: Do you think that the vote in the EU is only the first step towards a wider global ban?

Europe has tended to lead the world in regulating for safety and environmental standards. Many countries already have regulations in place to restrict the use of cadmium, and the list is growing. We expect that this strong lead by the EU Parliament will accelerate the adoption of similar controls in other leading industrial countries.

In any event, responsible manufacturers will want to be able to supply global markets to the highest safety standards, so they are likely to adopt EU standards for cadmium controls across all their main product ranges. Many already do.

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