Published: 14/05/14

Company responses

Homebase said:

Customer safety is always our highest priority and we take great care to provide quality products that conform to legal requirements and help our customers to complete decorating projects in their home.

MI (methylisothiazolinone) is an effective and common preservative that has been used for many years across a range of products in the home, including paint. The use of MI is strictly controlled by the EU.

Homebase continually reviews and improves its paint products to be compliant with industry standards, which includes investigating alternatives to MI.

We comply with the regulatory framework for safe use of chemicals in paint and are working towards new EU labelling requirements which will come into force in 2015.

The Classification, Labelling and Packaging Regulation (CLP) will require MI to be included on labels if it is present at lower levels than under current legislation.

Homebase own brand paint is already adopting the 2015 CLP guidelines and the majority of its range is labelled in line with the 2015 regulations.

Crown sent us British Coatings Federation's response:

Consumer safety is of utmost importance to all British Coatings Federation members. The use of preservatives and other biocides, such as MIT (methylisothiazolinone), is strictly controlled by the EU. MIT is a preservative used in paints as well as many other consumer goods such as household cleaning products, cosmetics and personal care products.

MIT is used in paints to prevent water-borne products from spoiling due to bacterial contamination. It gives the shelf-life necessary for paint to be transported and stored for sale, and therefore is an essential ingredient in water-borne products.

The industry accepts that MIT in paint can cause an allergic reaction to the very small percentage of the population already sensitised to MIT. The industry is investigating alternatives to MIT with preservative manufacturers, however, current alternatives are extremely limited and may not provide a safer solution.

The industry has already started a programme to label products containing more than 100 parts per million of MIT, which will allow consumers allergic to MIT to be aware of its presence in paint.

The BCF and its members are open to a dialogue with dermatologists to understand the issue from their perspective. If as part of this dialogue it is found that there is a possibility of an allergic reaction below 100 parts per million, the industry is open to considering voluntary labelling on all paint products containing MIT - a commitment above and beyond the legal requirements.

The BCF remains confident that our members’ products are safe to use for the vast majority of the population, if used in accordance with manufacturers’ instructions. Anyone developing symptoms of an allergic reaction should seek the advice of a medical expert.

Facts on legal labelling requirements of paints containing MIT

Today, EU legislation requires manufacturers to indicate the presence of MIT if levels are above 0.1% (or 1,000 parts per million), and all paint manufacturers who are members of the BCF in the UK comply with the regulations and correctly label products (in most cases paints in the UK have a percentage of MIT below this level).

From June 2015, there is a new legal requirement for MIT to be declared by manufacturers when it is present at a lower threshold of 0.01% and above (100 parts per million) as part of the EU Classification, Labelling and Packaging Regulation.

B&Q said:

The B&Q team was very sorry to learn Mrs Johnson had developed sensitivity to MI a commonly used preservative found in paint as well as cosmetics and other frequently used products.

For B&Q safety is fundamental to how we operate both for customers and employees, and is why our products conform to the highest quality standards and are safe for their intended use.

B&Q is the UK’s largest provider of paint products, so naturally we take the safety of our paints very seriously.

We have already started to include the following warning labelling on our own-brand paints and to work with suppliers for them to identify possible MI alternatives.

“Contains Benz/Methyl/Chlormethyl-Isothiazolon. May produce an allergic reaction (preservatives).”

Although such labelling would not have helped Mrs Johnson, who did not know about her allergy, B&Q welcomes broader awareness of allergy sensitisation which will allow consumers to make better informed decisions in the future.

Laura Ashley said:

Laura Ashley can confirm that the preservative within our paint is below the permitted levels as stated within the Dangerous Products Directive and that we are in compliance with current legislation.

Responding to our questions:

Q: Does Laura Ashley plan to include specific information about MI on Laura Ashley branded paint labels in future?

A: Laura Ashley will continue to comply with current legislation.

Q: Considering the widespread nature of the allergy, will Laura Ashley consider alternatives to MI in Laura Ashley branded paint products?

A: We regularly review all products in our Home offering and this is something we are currently investigating.

Fired Earth said:

Fired Earth takes the utmost care in the development of its products and services and customer safety is always paramount. We pay attention to the environment and our customer needs to develop paint products that are all water based and contain minimal Volatile Organic Compounds.

The level of MIT in Fired Earth products complies with Industry Guidelines and EU legislation. Fired Earth concurs with the BCF’s Statement of 9

th May 2014 on this subject, as follows:

“Consumer safety is of utmost importance to all British Coatings Federation members. The use of preservatives and other biocides, such as MIT (methylisothiazolinine), is strictly controlled by the EU. MIT is a preservative often used in paints as well as many other consumer goods such as household cleaning products, cosmetics and personal care products.

MIT is used to prevent water-borne paint from spoiling due to algae or bacteria contamination. It gives the shelf-life necessary for products to be transported and stored for sale and therefore is an essential ingredient in water-borne products.

The industry accepts that MIT in paint can cause an allergic reaction to the very small percentage of the population already sensitised to MIT. The industry is investigating alternatives to MIT with preservative manufacturers, however, current alternatives are extremely limited and may not provide a safe solution.

The industry has already started a programme to label products containing more than 100 parts per million of MIT, which will allow consumers allergic to MIT to be aware of its presence in paint.

The BCF and its members are open to a dialogue with dermatologists to understand the issue from their perspective. If as part of this dialogue it is found that there is a possibility of an allergic reaction below 100 parts per million, the industry is open to considering voluntary labelling on all paint products containing MIT – a commitment above and beyond legal requirements.

The BCF remains confident that our members’ products are safe to use for the vast majority of the population, if used in accordance with manufacturers’ instructions. Anyone developing symptoms of an allergic reaction should seek the advice of a medical expert.

Facts on legal labelling requirements of paints containing MIT

Today, EU legislation requires manufacturers to indicate the presence of MIT if levels are above 0.1% (or 1.000 parts per million). And all paint manufacturers who are members of the BCF in the UK comply with the regulations and correctly label products (in most cases paints in the UK have a percentage of MIT below this level).

From June 2015, there is a new legal requirement for MIT to be declared by manufacturers when it is present at a lower threshold of 0.01% and above (100 parts per million) as part of the EU Classification, Labelling and Packaging Regulation.”

Our development team are working in line with rest of the industry and investigation alternatives to Biocidal products. In the meantime we are taking steps to make information on the level of MIT in our paint available to consumers by updating our product advice sheets.

Wickes said:

1. As a responsible retailer, Wickes puts the safety and protection of its customers and employees first, and ensures that it complies with all legal requirements in relation to product labelling.

We have already begun the process of introducing new labelling on all of our own brand paint products to ensure compliance with new EU Regulations which come into force in June 2015.

2. The use of MI is not specific to Wickes' paint products and is used in almost all water-based paints. We will continue to work with all our suppliers to ensure that we provide our customers with the best, most competitively-priced product range, whilst at the same time ensuring that our products are safe and fit for purpose.