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 user 2006-12-13 at 1:00:00 pm Views: 58
  • #17041

    Landmark EU chemical law passed
    European Parliament has backed a deal, reached with EU governments, on
    wide-ranging legislation to control the use of toxic chemicals in
    industry.The law is designed to make firms prove the thousands of
    chemicals they use in products from cars to clothes are safe.It comes
    after years of wrangling between firms keen to avoid more red tape and
    environmentalists seeking to cut the use of hazardous pollutants.EU
    nations will have until 2018 to implement the new rules.Safety
    standards Reach has been described as the most important piece of EU
    legislation for 20 years.

    1,000 pages of text
    30,000 chemicals to be registered over 11 years
    At least one million more animal tests
    Billions of euros saved in healthcare costs

    puts the onus on business rather than public authorities to test
    chemicals for safety – including the thousands of chemicals that have
    been used for years without proper understanding of their effect on
    health or the environment.It is also meant to encourage the replacement
    of hazardous chemicals with safer ones, and to spur innovation.However,
    environmentalists had always hoped the law would go further than it did
    in its final version – and industry groups still say it went too
    far.”This deal is an early Christmas present for the chemicals
    industry, rewarding it for its intense and underhand lobbying
    campaign,” said Green MEP Caroline Lucas.Alain Perroy, director general
    of the European Chemical Industry Council (Cefic) said his members
    regretted the “unnecessary requirements” introduced for authorisation
    of chemicals.

    New agency
    Commissioner Stavros Dimas said it would “increase our knowledge about
    chemicals, enhance safety, and spur innovation, while encouraging
    substitution of highly dangerous chemicals by safer ones”.Europe’s main
    consumer group BEUC said the adoption of the law was not the end of the
    story.”What has been agreed must now be implemented properly and we
    will actively monitor the situation,” warned BEUC director Jim
    Murray.He pointed out that the deal still allows some cancer-causing
    substances and other poisonous chemicals to be used in consumer
    products, even when safer substances exist, as long as they have been
    subject to “adequate” control.”The only adequate form of control for
    such substances is substitution when possible,” he said.The system for
    registration, evaluation and authorisation of chemicals (Reach) demands
    that firms provide lists of the chemicals they use and specify any
    possible risks.A newly-established agency in Finland will oversee the
    way the firms assess chemicals for safety.The register will initially
    focus on the most toxic chemicals and those produced in the largest

    Issues unresolved
    will have to come up with plans to replace the most hazardous
    chemicals, but they will not be banned outright as environmentalists
    had hoped.While the EU said the deal improved the safety standard of
    chemicals, green lobbyists were angered by what they saw as the EU
    bowing to industry pressure.Conservation body the WWF said the final
    text of Reach “was not the complete disaster that it would have been if
    the chemical industry lobby had succeeded in all their wrecking
    tactics” but said it left a number of substantial problems unsolved.It
    also warned that the deal would continue to allow potentially harmful
    chemicals into the environment.

    ‘Right advice’
    the legislation was passed the UK’s Federation of Small Businesses
    (FSB) called on its government to help small firms.”This regulation
    will affect small businesses that manufacture or import chemicals in
    the EU as well as those using chemical preparations in their industrial
    or commercial activities,” it said.It said that the cost of complying
    with the new rules would hit small firms “especially hard” because they
    were “least able to absorb costs or pass them on to their customers,
    unlike larger businesses”.John Holbrow of the FSB added: “Civil
    servants must bear in mind the thousands of jobs across the business
    spectrum that depend on Reach being implemented well.”With the right
    advice small firms can do their bit without being left exposed to
    prosecution due to their understandable lack of resources and
    specialised knowledge.”And the CBI warned: “An overly bureaucratic
    implementation of the regulations could yet undo the benefits of
    today’s sensible compromise and make REACH unworkable.”