As some of you may be aware Varget is becoming increasingly hard to source in Europe. In fact many popular propellants are rapidly turning into unicorns. So what’s the deal? Is this just another drought which reloaders can ride out? Unfortunately it may be a little more permanent for the European market.
The EU and REACH
The European Union loves to keep us all safe. It makes sure our bananas have enough bend and forces fishermen to return dead over quota fish so that they might be reborn via some beaureacratic miracle. Just the other day I would have scalded myself with boiling water from a kettle in the workplace if it were not for a sign reading “Beware Hot Water”. I tip my hat to those wise, well paid men who ensure my safety at all times.
One of the many wonderful EU regulations is something called REACH, Registration, Evaluation, Authorisation and Restriction of Chemicals. A catchy acronym always helps in the world of health and safety right? REACH aims to reduce harm to humans and the environment caused by dangerous chemicals. Of course this is a sensible precaution. I do not want to swim in a sea of sulphuric acid or inhale benzene as I stroll through the high street. However in classic EU style they have decided to go that extra mile and regulate some things which are by their very nature dangerous substances… such as some of those found in smokless powder.
REACH identifies substances which are of “very high concern” known as SHVC. These substances are thought to be Carcinogenic, Mutagenic, toxic to reproductivity and/or bio accumulative. I have heard my wifes cooking is currently under consideration.
These SHVCs are placed on a candidate list which is made available to manufacturers who may choose to disagree. Ultimately a member state commitee will decide if it is suitable or not. The substance may then be placed on a candidate list and then the authorisation list which ultimately makes it financially difficult to export to the EU and eventually impossible if other substances can be used to replace it.
Two substances in use by shooters are on the candidate list.
Lead Styphnate which is used in primers.
Dibutyl Phthalate used in some smokeless powders.
Dibutyl Phthalate has now been placed on the Authorisation list.
The Good News..
Pretty much all European propellant manufacturers have been aware of this for some time. They have used alternative substances and therefore are REACH compliant.
The bad news is that many American manufacturers have not changed their formulation and will not be able to export non compliant powders to the EU. Varget happens to be one such propellant. There are many others which may or may not be effected. A number of Hodgdon powders seem to be affected which I found to my detriment when recently trying to purchase some. I can only assume that American manufacturers are very happy with the huge American market they have on their doorstep and are in no rush to change anything right now.
A simple way to check if your favourite powder is affected would be to check the SDS (Safety data sheet). These can generally be found on the manufacturers website. You will find hazardous substances listed and if you find Dibutyl Phthalate then it is likely a no go..
The odd thing about all this is that pretty much every substance in propellant is toxic. That is why most of us shooters choose not to eat it. Maybe the EU are saving our souls, maybe they are being a giant Nanny. Personally I find it a little odd that I can still smoke cigars while bathing in bleach without EU interference but I cannot use a propellant – that is one of the reasons I voted for Brexit 😉