Health Care Without Harm, December 13, 2006


[Rachel's introduction: Compared to their European counterparts, U.S. activists are more enthusiastic about REACH, the chemicals-policy law adopted today by the European Parliament.]

December 13, 2006 -- After years of heated controversy, including concerted efforts by top officials of the Bush Administration and the chemical industry to derail the new law, the European Parliament today gave final approval to a sweeping reform that will force companies to gather health and safety data on thousands of chemicals used in everyday commerce, including those chemicals currently on the market with no information. Though the legislation was weakened by an unprecedented lobbying campaign, the core pieces of the legislation remain intact and represent a major shift in chemicals control.

"The EU has taken a major step toward reforming an outdated chemical regulatory system that has massively failed in its objective to protect public health. When one in three people contract cancer in their lifetime, we need to stop using known and suspected cancer- causing chemicals in commerce. The same goes for chemicals that are now accumulating in our children's bodies," said Bev Thorpe, director of Clean Production Action.

The REACH (for Registration, Evaluation and Authorization of Chemicals) legislation agreed to today will require chemical companies to share health and safety information about their chemicals with downstream users (such as electronics and cosmetics industries) and the public. A few thousand of the most hazardous chemicals will require formal authorization providing a stronger incentive to substitute them with safer alternatives. Some of the most dangerous chemicals -- such as those that are very persistent and those that accumulate up the food chain -- will not be allowed if safer substitutes are available. If substitutes are not available, chemical makers will be forced to draw up a substitution research and adoption plan.

"REACH is the world's most ambitious attempt to eliminate the dangers of untested, unregulated chemicals that are found at work, in our homes and in our bodies. To protect the health of Americans and the competitiveness of US companies, we must now overhaul our own laws on toxic chemicals," said Daryl Ditz, senior policy advisor at the Center for International Environmental Law.

He said the US is already falling behind in the global shift toward safer, non-toxic products. As one example, toxic toys containing phthalates, which are linked to permanent birth defects in the male reproductive system, were banned years ago in the EU, but are still on US shelves. The city of San Francisco recently banned phthalate- containing toys and is now being sued by the chemical industry.

REACH is expected to enter into force in April 2007 and will roll out in stages over the next eleven or more years. US environmental groups have listed their demands for chemicals policy reform which is available at Several states are moving ahead with chemical policy reform and a bill has been introduced at the national level as well, the Kids Safe Chemicals Act.

For more information about REACH:

University of Massachusetts, Lowell Center for Sustainable Production site on REACH:

Statement by the Center for International Environmental law on the basics of the REACH deal: c06.html

For more information about the REACH process visit: 1169-345-12- 50-911-20061207STO01168-2006-11-12-2006/default_en.htm

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Contact: Beverley Thorpe, Clean Production Action, +1 514 933 4596,

Daryl Ditz, Ph.D., Center for International Environmental Law, + 1 202 785 8700,