Parliament Backs New EU Law on Toxic Chemicals
Friday 18 November 2005
Strasbourg, France - The European Parliament, seeking to protect the public from toxic substances, backed a landmark new law on Thursday that has pitted Europe's chemicals industry against environmental groups for years.
Lawmakers voted in favour of an amended bill on Registration, Evaluation and Authorisation of Chemicals (REACH), designed to make companies prove that substances in everyday products such as cars, computers or paint are safe.
The properties of roughly 30,000 chemicals produced or imported in the European Union would have to be registered with a central agency. Those of highest concern, such as carcinogens, would require testing and authorisation to be used.
The EU legislature voted 407-155 for the legislation with 41 abstentions. The rules must still be agreed by EU member states and may come back to parliament before they can become a law.
The amendments approved included a compromise that largely reduced the number of chemicals requiring testing.
Lawmakers also supported a measure that would force firms to substitute safe chemicals for hazardous ones when alternatives are available.
Germany, Europe's largest chemicals producer with giants like BASF and Bayer, successfully delayed a decision by member states scheduled for later this month, but Britain, which holds the EU presidency, wants a deal this year.
The European Commission, original author of REACH, forecasts it will cost the chemical industry 2.3 billion euros ($2.68 billion) over 11 years. Total costs to industry - including sectors like metals, textiles, electronics and cars - are estimated between 2.8 billion and 5.2 billion euros.
The United States and African nations have said REACH would disrupt trade and hurt their industries.