The big questions
As an engineered industrial product, manufactured from oil and gas, carbon black is sometimes perceived to be a cause for concern for consumers, employees and the communities where we operate. To respond to doubts that consumers may have regarding the safety of carbon black, our industry has invested time and effort over several decades into studying and understanding the potential health, safety and environmental risks associated with our product through robust scientific studies. We welcome every opportunity to share what we have learned about carbon black with our stakeholders.
Q.What is Birla Carbon doing to change how carbon black is perceived?
A: Because of the confusion between black carbon (soot formed through the incomplete combustion of fossil fuels, biofuels or biomass) and carbon black, the engineered material we produce is often incorrectly perceived as a polluting, dirty, air contaminating, carcinogenic black dust, which is detrimental to society and the environment. Birla Carbon is at the forefront of industry investigations into the potential effects of carbon black, both to humans and the environment. Through our work with the International Carbon Black Association (ICBA), we engage closely with health, safety and environmental officials across the world to ensure that accurate, scientific-based information is utilized in the regulatory process.
Q.What is the ICBA?
A: We are an active member of our industry association, the International Carbon Black Association (ICBA). Birla Carbon professionals participate in leadership positions on the Board of Directors and the Regional ICBA’s Product Safety and Regulatory Committees for North America, Europe and Asia. These industry groups meet on a regular basis to address the changing regulatory landscape of their specific region. Additionally, the organization sponsors an independent Scientific Advisory Group (SAG), which conducts and participates in product and occupational health investigations, research and analysis. This often results in peer-reviewed publications (pdf, 308KB) in internationally recognized journals, relating to the health, safety and environmental aspects of the production and use of carbon black. The SAG is also instrumental in providing feedback and comments on other published material to clarify and/or correct perceptions of carbon black.
We also help our customers conduct research into the safety and efficiency of their own products. Through our quarterly Product Stewardship newsletter, regular engagement with our customers and with our Sales, Marketing and Research and Development teams, we keep our value chain up to date with the latest industry developments.
Q.Can carbon black cause health problems?
A: Black carbon is a known carcinogen; by association, our product (carbon black) is too often erroneously linked with cancer. Peer-reviewed scientific studies have shown that carbon black is neither a toxin nor a carcinogen, and there is no evidence of any adverse health effects on our employees. As the material is fully embedded in the polymeric matrices, consumers are not directly exposed to carbon black through products placed on the marketplace.
Q.Is carbon black safe to handle?
A: Carbon black is not dangerous to humans. There is no evidence to suggest that exposure to carbon black results in life-threatening injury or illness. Although carbon black is not defined as a respiratory irritant, carbon black dust spreads easily in air and therefore should be stored carefully. It may cause drying of the skin with repeated and prolonged contact; it may be washed from the skin using mild soap and water along with gentle scrubbing. If carbon black has been spilled or requires cleaning up, dry vacuuming is the preferred method.
Q.Is carbon black harmful to the environment?
A: Due to the nature of our manufacturing processes, we recognize that our activities can potentially have environmental impacts, particularly in terms of water use, greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and waste generated. Through our practices, we are committed to ensuring that our production facilities do everything possible to prevent the release of any carbon black into the atmosphere. We are working to reduce greenhouse gases (GHG) and other air emissions by proactively studying, experimenting and investing in pioneering air emission control technologies. Furthermore, as carbon black is typically embedded in finished consumer products and difficult to extract from the rubber or plastic polymeric matrix, once these products are disposed of, the environmental impact of carbon black itself is minimal, if any.