7 May 2003
plans tough screening of toxic chemicals
- The European Commission will today propose tough new controls
on chemicals to curb the effect of toxic substances on humans
and the environment in a bill that could influence lawmakers around
new law would oblige chemical firms to register and test for safety
30,000 chemicals for a cost of up to seven billion euros ($7.86
billion) in the first 10 years, according to Commission estimates.
a comprehensive system we believe will be a workable balance between
protecting the environment and safeguarding the competitiveness
of industry," said Per Haugaard, spokesman for EU Enterprise
Commissioner Erkki Liikanen.
onus would be on any firm that makes, imports or uses chemicals
to prove its products are safe or stop using them.
plan has sparked industry fears it may needlessly burden companies
with red tape. But environmentalists say the measures are needed
to restrict chemicals that can cause cancer, mutations, mimic hormones
and linger in the environment, posing serious risks to human and
welcome the fact that progress is being made and we support the
basic approach," said Michael Warhurst, chemicals policy campaigner
at environmental group WWF. "But we are very concerned about
some of the detail."
said the draft law did not impose enough pressure on companies to
switch to safer alternatives and that highly toxic chemicals could
continue to be used if firms could prove their socio-economic benefits
outweigh the risks.
any chemicals already on the market before the existing EU regime
was created in 1981 do not have to be registered and tested for
safety in the same way that new substances do.
the Commission's "Reach" system (Registration, Evaluation
and Authorisation of Chemicals), some 30,000 chemicals would have
to be registered with a new EU chemicals agency. Those that don't
pass the test will be banned.
EU's chemicals industry, which employs 1.7 million people and has
annual sales of 519 billion euros, has been lobbying the Commission
to avoid measures that put one of Europe's biggest industry's at
an economic disadvantage.
industry has been calling for exemptions from the Reach system for
intermediates - chemicals used in closed processes within factories,
and for polymers.
Voscherau, President of the European Chemical Industry Council,
said the Commission had to choose between an approach that would
allow continued economic growth "or it can unleash a 1,200
page regulation that will have a huge negative impact on growth
and innovation throughout European industry".
the law would affect imports, the Commission, the EU's executive
arm, had been careful to ensure it complied with World Trade Organisation
rules, Haugaard said, adding that other countries were considering
new chemicals regulations.
EU move is partly a fulfilment of its pledge made at the World Summit
on Sustainable Development in Johannesburg last year to minimise
the harmful effects of chemicals on human health by 2020.
bill is being issued under a new procedure where interested parties
are invited to comment before it goes for approval by EU governments
and the European Parliament.