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From 1 February 2013 it will be illegal to sell or use water treatment systems that use elemental copper in order to add copper ions to water as a biocide. It will also be illegal to supply the copper needed for their use.

The action has been taken at EU Level under the Biocidal Products Directive because no manufacturer supported the use of elemental copper for use as biocides in these systems during a review period that ended in September 2011.  

HSE's primary concern is that legionella control is not compromised.  Businesses and organisations have a responsibility to manage the risks from legionella and it is essential that these duties continue to be met. In addition, HSE intends to pursue an 'essential use derogation' for use of copper in legionella control systems in the UK. 

We encourage users of these water treatment systems to contact the manufacturer to discuss a way forward. The simple FAQ below may answer any initial questions you may have. 

Health and Safety Executive Q & A 

Q. What if I continue to use my system after February 1 2013?

The primary concern of HSE and Local Authorities is that legionella control is not compromised. HSE and LAs will take a sensible and proportionate approach if they come across these systems. This will take into account the system being used, the steps taken to consider an alternative system of control and the latest status in relation to an application to Europe to exempt the use of copper in legionella control systems from the ban. 

Q. I see that there is intended to be an appeal over the ban to allow the continued use of copper in Legionella control systems in the UK. What does this mean for me? 

If an essential use derogation request is successful then this would allow the continued use of elemental copper as long as industry provided the data required under the Directive by a specified deadline. As we cannot predict the outcome of any application that is submitted we are bringing the current situation to the attention of duty holders. Moreover, any such application, successful or not, will not be determined by 1 February 2013, therefore, these systems will still be classed as illegal from this date. The primary concern of HSE and LAs is that legionella control is not compromised. We will therefore take a sensible and proportionate approach to enforcement if we come across any of these systems after 1 February 2013.

Q. My system only adds silver ions to the water. Does this affect me? 

No. The decision taken at EU level under the biocides directive applies to the use of elemental copper to produce copper ions that are added to your water for legionella control. 

Q. Will HSE and LAs be making specific enforcement visits in relation to these systems? 

No. Any action in relation to these systems will only be in relation to visits for other primary purposes. 

Please Contact 3C Environmental Technology for further advice regarding the above development.

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