Fact Sheet: Products containing arsenic

This fact sheet explains the most important points in the Ministry of Environment's Order on restricting the sale and use of certain dangerous chemical substances and products. Please note that only the regulations in the Statutory Order apply, this fact sheet is merely a guide.

What is the scope of the regulations? 

Amongst other things, the regulations cover colours and dyes, disinfectants and preservatives for masonry, brickwork, wood and textiles, as well as agents to prevent attack on boat hulls, etc. from micro-organisms, plants and animals.

What is the purpose of the regulations?

The use of arsenic must be restricted as it is an extremely toxic substance. Inorganic arsenic compounds can cause acute chronic poisoning and cancer.

What do the regulations say?

Dyes used in paints may contain a maximum of:

  • 0.07 per cent arsenic for finished dyes, and
  • 0.1 per cent for dry dyes.

Disinfectants and preservatives must not contain arsenic for walls, wood and textiles in:

  • masonry, woodwork, and textiles which come into contact with foodstuffs,
  • internal walls, ceilings, and floors in residences, waiting rooms, or work premises, and
  • utensils for indoor use, and coverings and coatings.

It is not permitted to sell products containing arsenic which are designed to:

  • prevent micro-organisms, plants and animals from growing on boat hulls, cages or other apparatus or equipment for use underwater in sea farming and aquaculture,
  • preserve wood,
  • treat industrial water.

If a product has been treated with arsenic compounds, this must be included on the label. Furthermore, the label must state that the retailer/dealer is to inform the buyer/user about the regulations for using the product.

It is not permitted to import, sell, export or use wood that has been treated with arsenic compounds. This applies to both new and old wood.

Are there exemptions from the regulations?

Colours and dyes containing more arsenic than stated under ’What do the regulations say?’ can be used for artistic purposes when they carry the declaration ’artists’ colours containing arsenic’.

Disinfectants and preservatives containing arsenic may only be used on:

• outside walls or wood – treatment must result in wood being given a different (unnatural) colour, and
• canvas, tarpaulins, marquees, and similar for outdoor use.

Use of CCA agents – agents containing copper, chromium and arsenic – for wood preservation in industrial plants requires approval in accordance with the legislation on pesticides. At present there are no approved CCA agents available in Denmark.

Who is responsible?

Anyone selling or using products containing arsenic is responsible for complying with the regulations as they appear in the Statutory Order. The same applies for anyone importing, exporting, selling or using wood.

The Danish EPA Chemical Inspection Service supervises the implementation of the regulations and is authorised to issue injunctions and bans. If the regulations are violated this may lead to a fine or imprisonment.

Where can I obtain more information?

The title of the Statutory Order is:
" Ministry of Environment and Energy Statutory Order No. 1043 of 17 December 1997 on restricting the sale and use of certain dangerous chemical substances and products for specifically stated purposes. Section 11 is about dyes etc., Section 15 deals with disinfectants and preservatives for brickwork, wood and textiles, etc., Section 21 deals with agents to prevent fouling on ships’ hulls, etc., wood preservatives and industrial water.

The Statutory Order is also available in Danish on the Internet address: www.retsinfo.dk , at the library, or you can order it at a bookshop in Denmark.