Rachel's Precaution Reporter #13

"Foresight and Precaution, in the News and in the World"

Wednesday, November 23, 2005.........Printer-friendly version
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Table of Contents...

European Parliament OKs Watered-Down Rules On Chemical Safety
  Europe's long-awaited chemicals policy, known as REACH, is enacted,
  though in substantially-weakened form.
Europe's New REACH Chemicals Policy Is an Important Step Forward
  Europe's precautionary chemicals policy will require safety
  testing of 10,000 common chemicals.
Huge New Health Benefits Claimed for REACH Policy
  Europe's precautionary chemicals policy will pay for itself by
  producing substantial health benefits, which translate into large
  monetary savings, a study finds.
Right-Wingers Say U.S. Should Not Adopt European Laws
  Europe's REACH chemicals policy will affect U.S. corporations
  selling in the European market. Right-wing extremists fear that
  Europe's embrace of a broader precautionary approach will creep across
  the Atlantic.


From: Los Angeles Times, Nov. 18, 2005
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The policy would force industries worldwide to test thousands of
compounds for toxicity.

By Marla Cone

The European Parliament on Thursday [Nov. 17] approved legislation
requiring safety testing of thousands of compounds widely used in
everyday products, endorsing a policy that would overhaul how the
public was protected from toxic chemicals.

The regulation, if approved by a council of Europe's national
governments, would force industries worldwide to test their chemicals
for effects on human health and the environment. It would be the
world's strictest standard, eclipsing U.S. laws, and could lead to
global bans on some compounds.

Chemicals found in a variety of products -- such as computers,
cosmetics, cars, furniture, detergent and pesticides -- would have to
undergo basic toxicity testing. Those used in the largest volumes
would be subjected to more rigorous testing.

Called Reach, or Registration, Evaluation and Authorization of
Chemicals, the law could cost American industries that export products
to Europe billions of dollars. The Bush administration and the U.S.
chemical industry teamed to fight the European Union's proposal,
calling it unworkable and excessive.

"If enacted, manufacturers and consumer product companies from Boston
to Bombay that use essential chemical products would be impacted by
this misguided scheme," said Jack N. Gerard, president and chief
executive of the American Chemistry Council, a chemical industry trade

Under current U.S. and EU laws, most chemicals -- those that were used
before 1981 in Europe and 1976 in the United States -- are not
required to undergo toxicity testing.

The new European law was prompted by discoveries that chemicals are
amassing in human bodies, particularly breast milk, as well as in
wildlife. In most cases, the potential dangers are unknown. Some
70,000 to 100,000 chemicals are in commerce today, and experts say
that more than 90% have not been subjected to basic toxicity testing
for health and ecological effects.

"These new rules will make a huge difference in protecting people's
health, both at work and in everyday life, and in safeguarding our
environment," said Guido Sacconi, a member of the Italian Socialist
party who brokered the policy approved Thursday.

"Companies will have to show that the chemicals they produce or import
are safe. But the competitiveness of European firms will not be

Parliament's vote, which came after years of debate and thousands of
amendments, was considered a major hurdle. Europe's diverse political
parties -- led by the conservative People's Party and the Socialists
-- agreed after major concessions were made to accommodate some of
industry's concerns.

The proposal now goes to Europe's other legislative assembly, the
Council of Ministers, which represents the EU's 25 member states. The
council already is considering a draft, crafted by Britain, that is
similar to the one Parliament adopted, and a vote could come next
month. Europe's executive branch, the European Commission, approved
Reach two years ago and has endorsed the new concessions.

Members of the European Commission overseeing both industry and
environmental issues say the legislation could become final in

"All in all, there is hope for this to be on the statute book by the
end of the year," Gunter Verheugen, vice president of the commission
who is responsible for enterprise and industry, told Parliament when
it began its debate Tuesday.

Under the legislation, companies would have to register about 30,000
chemicals, those used in volumes of at least one ton per year, with a
newly created European agency.

Chemicals considered the most dangerous -- because they have been
linked to cancer or reproductive effects, or because they build up in
the environment -- would require authorization by the new agency or
their use in products sold in Europe would be prohibited. Businesses
would have to opt for safer substitutes if they were available.

Scientists say that low doses of many chemicals found in human bodies
have been shown in animals to alter sex hormones, brains and immune

European officials called the debate over Reach a legislative
marathon, among their most controversial and complex initiatives since
the EU was created. Lobbying was intense, with environmental activists
and unions battling large industries.

Stavros Dimas, Europe's environmental commissioner, said the
legislation "marks the beginning of a new era for chemical safety."

He said it would "increase the confidence of consumers in the chemical
products they come in touch with" and "spur innovation and encourage
substitution by safer products."

Parliament, convening in Strasbourg, France, voted 407 to 155 in favor
with 41 abstentions.

Sacconi said that "unbelievable pressure" came from large industries.
The European chemical industry has sales of more than $600 billion a
year and employs 1.3 million people, mostly in Germany.

The Competitive Enterprise Institute, a U.S.-based free-market think
tank, said in a report written for European counterparts that Reach
would be "costly for the world, suicidal for Europe" and contended
that there was no proof of environmental or health benefits.

The testing would be phased in over an 11-year period. The European
Commission estimates that costs to industry would be $2 billion to $6
billion over the 11 years but would be offset by $58 billion in
healthcare cost savings over three decades.

Parliament officials said Thursday that industry's fears of
overregulation struck a chord with most members, so they eased some
provisions. Fewer of the estimated 17,000 chemicals used in annual
volumes of less than 10 tons would require safety tests. They would
have to be registered but less data would be required, and some would
not need any testing.

Conservative party members and industry representatives welcomed the
compromise because it minimized costly animal testing and eased the
burden on smaller businesses. On the other hand, they oppose another
provision added by Parliament that allows the most hazardous chemicals
to be authorized for only five-year periods. They fear it will be a
bureaucratic nightmare for the chemical industry.

Jonas Sjostedt, a member of Sweden's Socialist party in Parliament,
said Socialists voted for the legislation because "a weak Reach is
better than no Reach at all." He said the proposal "was radically
weakened" and his party voted in favor "without enthusiasm."

Environmental groups said the provisions pertaining to the lower-
volume chemicals were so watered down that Reach would not protect the
public. They are seeking to persuade the Council of Ministers to
strengthen them.

"It would leave thousands of chemicals without basic toxicity data,
and so would hamper the identification of harmful chemicals, such as
hormone disrupters," said a coalition of seven groups, including World
Wildlife Fund and Greenpeace.

Copyright 2005 Los Angeles Times

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From: BBC News, Nov. 17, 2005
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Business has sought to weaken the law, unions to strengthen it

The European Parliament has approved far-reaching legislation which
will lead to the safety testing of thousands of chemicals used in
everyday products.

The law, called Reach -- Registration, Evaluation and Authorisation of
Chemicals -- would create one database including all chemicals used in
the EU.

Employers say it will impose heavy costs and cause firms to flee

MEPs also included a measure obliging firms to replace hazardous
chemicals with safe ones, whenever possible.

The regulation has to be approved by national governments before it
can become law, and may return to the parliament for another vote next


Reach in its original form would have led to about 30,000 substances -
found in everything from cars to computers to children's toys -- being
tested for their impact on health and the environment.

It has been intensely controversial, prompting some of the biggest
lobbying campaigns ever seen in Brussels, with industry on one side
and unions, and health and environmental groups on the other.

Last week, the largest political groups in the European Parliament -
the conservative European People's Party and the Socialist group -
agreed on a compromise, limiting the amount of data required for
substances used in volumes of less than 10 tonnes.

All of the 30,000 chemicals will still need to be registered, but up
to two-thirds of them may be exempted from tests.

Instead, a new European Chemicals Agency, based in Helsinki, will
decide which of these chemicals used in low volumes are risky enough
to have to pass through the testing procedure.

Duty of care

Businesses wanting to use the most dangerous chemicals will have to
get special authorisation from the agency.

The European Parliament also voted for improved labelling of products
made with chemicals thought to be harmful.

Up to now, chemicals put on the market before 1981 -- the vast
of those currently in use -- have not had to be checked for their
effects on health and the environment.

The onus has been on public health authorities in individual countries
to test those they suspect may be dangerous.

Reach puts the burden of proof, and a "duty of care", on business.

The tests would have to be carried out in phases over 11 years,
starting with the most dangerous substances, and those used in the
largest volumes.

'Strongest protection'

Italian Socialist MEP Guido Sacconi, who steered Reach through the
parliament's environment committee, said the vote gave Europe the
"strongest protection in the world" from dangerous chemicals.

He added that "unbelievable pressure" was brought to bear on MEPs by
big businesses.

Nadine Toscani, a senior policy adviser at Unice, a pro-business lobby
group, said: "The legislation is going in the right direction."

But, a group of green groups, including Friends of the Earth and
Greenpeace, said the MEPs had diluted the legislation too far.

"A Reach adopted the on this basis will not deliver the health and
environment protection the public needs, as it would leave thousands
of chemicals without basic toxicity data," the groups said in a joint

The European Consumers Organisation, BEUC, also said the law, as
amended by parliament, would not "identify risks and hazards that need
to be identified".


1,000 pages of text already, rising potentially to 15,000
1,000 amendments voted on

30,000 chemicals to be registered over 11 years

At least one million more animal tests

Estimated costs of $5.9 US dollars ($5bn euros) for business over 11

Billions of euros saved in healthcare costs

Q&A: Reach chemicals law

In quotes: Reach reaction

Story from BBC NEWS:

Published: 2005/11/17 13:00:33 GMT

Copyright BBC MMV

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From: Environment Daily, Oct. 19, 2005
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Implementing the EU's REACH chemical policy will yield much larger
occupational health benefits than previously thought, scientists
commissioned by Europe's trade union movement have claimed. Even in
the first ten years these benefits alone could exceed the entire cost
of implementation, the scientists say.

The research was unveiled in the European parliament on Monday at a
meeting organised by EU trade union body Etuc and hosted by Guido
Sacconi, the assembly's rapporteur for Reach. Mr Sacconi stressed the
importance of safeguarding workers' health and said it was essential
that Reach was not weakened.

Carried out at the University of Sheffield, the research breaks new
ground by focusing on how far Reach, as proposed by the European
Commission in 2003, will avoid skin and respiratory diseases other
than cancer, including dermatitis and chronic pulmonary obstructive

Previous studies have focused more on cancers, study co-author Simon
Pickvance told Environment Daily. Whereas these tend to emerge over a
long time period, the diseases now looked at appear more quickly, he

In the first ten years of Reach, the study calculates the benefits for
avoidance of these diseases at $.77-$7.3bn, with a midpoint estimate
of around $4.12bn. Over a longer, 30-year period, it puts the benefits
at $24.7-$189.7bn, with a midpoint of around $106bn.

In contrast, the European Commission reckons Reach will cost
$3.3-$6.1bn to implement over 15 years. The main previous estimate of
Reach's health benefits, carried out for the commission by consultancy
RPA, is $31.8bn over 30 years.

The scientists used new methods to calculate the incidence of three
diseases related to workplace exposure to chemicals. They then
estimated the proportion that will be avoided by implementing Reach.
For asthma, for example, they expect Reach to avoid 50% of relevant
cases, or 40,000 per year. Finally, they monetised the benefits of
this avoidance.

The benefits will be felt by very large numbers of workers in many
chemical using sectors, Mr Pickvance told Environment Daily, not just
industrial operations such as car spraying, but also all users of
cleaning products. Many millions of people across Europe are therefore
involved, he said.

It was "impossible" at this stage to say whether amendments
simplifying Reach that look set to be adopted by EU governments and
MEPs would significantly affect the estimates, Mr Pickvance added.

Follow-up: Etuc, tel: +32 2 224 0411, and the study.

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From: Fox News, Nov. 17, 2005
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By Steven Milloy

As globalization fosters economic growth around the world, Americans
should be vigilant of an unintended consequence: the imposition on
U.S. businesses and consumers of the non-science-based,
environmentalist-promoted, European Union-embraced standard known as
the "precautionary principle."

The precautionary principle is the subject of a new Washington Legal
Foundation report entitled "Exporting Precaution: How Europe's Risk-
Free Regulatory Agenda Threatens American Free Enterprise."

Authored by Lawrence Kogan of the Institute for Trade Standards and
Sustainable Development, the report describes how "international
bureaucrats and influential activist groups use the precautionary
principle as a vehicle to diminish America's competitive position in
the global economy and advance special interest agendas hostile to
free enterprise and technology."

Kogan aptly calls the precautionary principle "regulation without

The precautionary principle is a scheme for establishing
environmental, health and safety regulations that are based on
irrational fears rather than empirical science.

Under the precautionary principle, activities, products and substances
may be banned or restricted if it is merely possible that they or the
processes used for their manufacture, formulation or assembly might
cause health or environmental harm under some unknown and unspecified
future circumstances. In other words: It focuses on purely
hypothetical risks rather than actual hazards.

The precautionary principle inherently rejects scientific and cost-
benefit analysis as bases for regulation. It is arbitrariness
unleashed in the hands of powerful government regulators and others
who have no use for facts or common sense.

Although the European Union expressly admitted that no evidence
indicates biotech foods are less safe than conventional foods, the
EU's precautionary principle-based Biosafety Protocol was used to
block more than $2 billion worth of U.S. biotech crop exports from
1998 to 2005, according to Kogan.

The EU's Cosmetics Directive bans the use of chemicals called
"phthalates" in cosmetic products even though no scientific data
suggest that consumer exposure to phthalates in cosmetics and personal
care products poses a human health risk. By also banning animal
testing on most cosmetics prior to consumer use, Kogan says, a
strictly applied Cosmetics Directive would run counter to U.S. laws
and regulations mandating animal testing of cosmetics classified as
over-the-counter drugs and require reformulation of almost all current
cosmetics products.

The EU also intends to make the garbage pail obsolete by presuming
that all trash is hazardous. Under the precautionary principle, EU
businesses must develop "life cycle management principles" that
include "take-back" provisions under which businesses must reclaim and
dispose of all new products put on the market upon their obsolescence,
mostly at business' expense.

The EU also applies the precautionary principle to industrial
chemicals, disinfectants, preservatives and global warming. Science is
out; capriciousness is in.

The tangible impact of the precautionary principle is immense.

"The administrative, financial and legal burdens imposed by EU
precaution-based environmental regulations are cumulatively equivalent
to a hidden business tax that, as of 1999, constituted as much as 15
percent of the new capital invested by certain European industry
sectors," writes Kogan.

The precautionary principle may help to explain why EU nations lag
behind the U.S. in economic growth. According to a June 2004 report
from the Swedish think tank Timbro, U.S. gross domestic product (the
measure of the value of the goods and services produced by a country
in a given year), was 17 percent higher than the nearest European
country, Switzerland.

There are also intangible costs associated with the precautionary
principle. Intellectual property rights are compromised because
confidential information must be shared among producers,
intermediaries and distributors in a product's vertical supply chain.
Labeling steers consumers to bureaucrat- and environmentalist-
preferred products, such as those labeled "eco-friendly," rather than
politically incorrect brand name goods.

It doesn't take too much to imagine the harm the precautionary
principle could do if imported into the U.S. as a legal standard.
Existing standards of negligence, strict liability, products liability
and public nuisance might go out the window in favor of legal outcomes
like the $253 million verdict against Merck in a recent Vioxx trial.

Although Merck had complied with all legal requirements for testing
and labeling and there was no scientific evidence supporting the
verdict, emotional jurors nevertheless wanted to send Merck and the
drug industry a precautionary principle-tyoe message: 'Stop doing the
minimum to put your drug on the market," Kogan points out.

And all this may be coming our way.

Kogan describes how American and European environmental and so-called
"social responsibility" groups operated fear campaigns to generate
public pressure for the EU to implement the precautionary principle.
Now, these same groups are using strict EU laws and regulations as a
platform for promoting similar regulatory change in the U.S.

Large multinational corporations, primary instruments of globalization
that are subject to EU regulation, are now trying to import those same
regulations back to the U.S. General Electric, for example, is subject
to the EU-adopted Kyoto Protocol, and is actively advocating that
Congress enact global warming regulation. Significantly hampered by
its self-inflicted wound, the EU supports U.S. adoption of the
precautionary principle as a means to become more economically
competitive with American products and services.

We ought to take action "to extinguish the complex threat posed by the
precautionary principle," Kogan writes. "The stakes are very high.
America's very enterprise system, individual freedoms and
international interests may be hanging in the balance."

Steven Milloy publishes JunkScience.com and CSRwatch.com, is
adjunct scholar at the Cato Institute, and is the author of Junk
Science Judo: Self-defense Against Health Scares and Scams (Cato
Institute, 2001).

Copyright 2005 FOX News Network, LLC.

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  Rachel's Precaution Reporter offers news, views and practical
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