Rachel's Precaution Reporter #68
Wednesday, December 13, 2006

From: New Mexico Environment and Health Coalition ........[This story printer-friendly]
October 12, 2006


[Rachel's introduction: The Report of the New Mexico (NM) Precautionary Principle Task Force, "Incorporating the Precautionary Principle into State Government," is now available online.]

By Earl James, Coalition Convenor

The Report of the New Mexico (NM) Precautionary Principle Task Force "Incorporating the Precautionary Principle into State Government," published October 12th, is now available online.

The New Mexico Precautionary Principle Task Force was established by the NM Departments of Environment and Health after the passage of legislation put forward by the New Mexico Environment and Health Coalition and sponsored by NM Representative Antonio Lujan. The University of New Mexico's Office of the Vice President for Research and Economic Development provided a Task Force Coordinator.

The New Mexico Environment and Health Coalition provided a precautionary principle staffer to the Task Force in the person of Ann McCampbell, MD. Ann conducted extensive research and brought the perspective and knowledge of an environmenal health physician to the table.

Participants in the Task Force brought many other perspectives, from that of the two lead agencies (NM Departments of Environment and Health) to the NM State Police Office of Public Safety, the NM Organic Commodities Commission, the Association of Commerce and Industry, the City of Santa Fe, and many others.

The Report makes 34 specific recommendations in four categories:

* Integrated Pest Management

* Good Health Strategies

* Construction and Renovation

* Indoor Air Quality/Tobacco

Specific State Offices or Agencies are identified as responsible for implementation.

The NM Environment and Health Coalition will assist with the development of a strategic implementation plan for the recommendations, and will initiate a program to bring these recommendations to local governments around the State.

For more information on the Report or the Task Force, contact Ann McCampbell, MD at drannmcc@aol.com, or Matt Baca, Task Force Coordinator, at baca@unm.edu.

Funding from the McCune Charitable Foundation and the Collaborative on Health and Environment have sustained the Coalition's work and made its ongoing Precautionary Principle project possible.


From: Women in Europe for a Common Future .................[This story printer-friendly]
December 13, 2006


[Rachel's introduction: Europe's long-awaited chemicals-policy law, REACH, survived a second reading today in the European Parliament. However, as enacted, REACH has been badly watered down and contains major loopholes, according to a coalition of European health, environment, consumer and women's organizations.]

Strasbourg, France -- A plenary vote by Members of the European Parliament has left the new EU chemicals legislation, REACH, alive but in a critical condition, according to health, environment, consumer and women's advocacy groups.

'Alive': The legislation, designed to replace rules up to 40 years old, sets Europe on the first modest step towards a new approach to chemicals regulation: companies will have to provide safety data for large volume chemicals that they produce or import into Europe, and there is a mechanism for the substitution of persistent and bioaccumulative chemicals if safer alternatives exist. It also allows the public to request information about the presence of a limited number of hazardous chemicals in products. In the past, companies could sell almost any chemical they liked without providing health and safety information; and hazardous chemicals were only restricted in response to scandal on a case-by-case basis.

'Not kicking': Major loopholes in REACH will still allow many chemicals that can cause serious health problems, including cancer, birth defects and reproductive illnesses, to continue being used in manufacturing and consumer goods. Further concessions exempt companies which import and manufacture chemicals in volumes below 10 tonnes a year -- 60% of chemicals covered by REACH -- from the requirement to provide any meaningful safety data.

REACH and the new European Chemicals Agency will therefore require intensive care from policymakers over the coming years to ensure that they protect the public from highly hazardous chemicals.

Under REACH, many 'high-concern' chemicals will be allowed onto the market if producers claim that they can 'adequately control' them. The approach of adequate control -- and safe thresholds -- is premised on a risky gamble, given the unknown effects of chemicals in combination, on vulnerable hormone functions, and on the development of children from the earliest stages of life. Medical associations, consumer groups and innovative businesses across Europe had called for a complete substitution requirement in REACH as the minimum necessary measure against hazardous chemicals.

The loopholes and provisions for self-regulation contained in these measures leave REACH very vulnerable to further manipulation by the chemical industry. There is no guarantee, for example, that information from third parties about safer alternatives to hazardous chemicals will be considered in every case.

The new EU Chemicals Agency in Helsinki will have to be closely monitored to ensure that REACH can deliver. Without the necessary support, hazardous chemicals will continue to contaminate wildlife, our homes and our bodies, and REACH will prove a failure.

More information.


Mecki Naschke, Policy Officer, Chemical Policies at European Environmental Bureau (EEB), +49 176 23 500 897

Javier Calvo, Policy Officer at Eurocoop, +32 (0) 2 285 0076

Aleksandra Kordecka, Chemicals Campaigner at Friends of the Earth Europe, +32 (0) 498 505165

Nadia Haiama, EU Policy Director on Chemicals at Greenpeace European Unit, +32 (0)476 961 376

Lisette van Vliet, Toxics Policy Advisor at Health & Environment Alliance (formerly EPHA Environment Network), +32 (0) 2 234 3645

Daniela Rosche, Chemicals Policy Coordinator at WECF (Women in Europe for a Common Future), +31 6 22 95 00 27

Noemi Cano, WWF DetoX Campaign Communications Manager, +32 (0) 479 610451


From: Health Care Without Harm ...........................[This story printer-friendly]
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 www.louisvillecharter.org. 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: http://www.chemicalspolicy.org/reach.shtml

Statement by the Center for International Environmental law on the basics of the REACH deal: http://www.ciel.org/Chemicals/Reach_1De c06.html

For more information about the REACH process visit:

http://www.europarl.europa.eu/news/public/story_page/064- 1169-345-12- 50-911-20061207STO01168-2006-11-12-2006/default_en.htm

# # #

Contact: Beverley Thorpe, Clean Production Action, +1 514 933 4596, bev@cleanproduction.org

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


From: The Greens/EFA In the European Parliament ...........[This story printer-friendly]
December 13, 2006


[Rachel's introduction: The Greens and the European Free Alliance (EFA) immediately derided the European chemicals policy, REACH, enacted today by the European Parliament. Green Member of Parliament Caroline Lucas said, "This deal is an early Christmas present for the chemicals industry..."]

The European Parliament today voted to adopt the compromise deal on the REACH regulation, agreed with Council on 30 November, rejecting both the Greens' alternative compromise and individual Green amendments aimed at strengthening the text. Speaking after the vote Swedish Green and shadow rapporteur, Carl Schlyter said:

"As expected, the EP has rubber-stamped the deal on REACH, bringing to an end 9 years of discussions on reviewing the EU's chemicals rules. The rapporteur is toasting the 'success' of the compromise, however it is far too early to judge if the new regulation will offer much greater protection to EU citizens from hazardous chemicals.

"One certainty is that the EP failed to ensure mandatory substitution of substances of high concern in consumer products where a safer alternative exists. In doing so, the Parliament missed the opportunity to guarantee better protection from these chemicals, all to protect short-term profits for the chemicals industry."

UK Green MEP and Environment Committee member Caroline Lucas added:

"This deal is an early Christmas present for the chemicals industry, rewarding it for its intense and underhand lobbying campaign. While the legislative text has now been agreed, the devil will be in the detail of the implementation of these rules. We are deeply worried that the key goal of this legislation -- to offer EU citizens and the environment sufficient protection from dangerous chemicals -- appears to have been lost in the haste to agree a compromise.

"Worryingly, while the legislative phase was relatively transparent except for the final trialogues, the crucial implementation of REACH promises to be an opaque process in which the chemicals industry will have enormous influence and will try to weaken REACH further. Given the deep division between the Commission services responsible, many more behind-the-scenes fights are looming. It is unacceptable the Chemicals Agency, which will prepare crucial decisions on these substances, can be veiled in secrecy. We can only hope that consumers will make use of their right to get information about substances of very high concern in everyday products to such an extent that the retail sector will voluntarily withdraw products containing these chemicals."

Richard More O' Ferrall, Press and Communications Officer, The Greens/EFA in the European Parliament Tel: Brussels +32 2 2841667 / Strasburg +33 3 88174375 Mobile: +32-477-44-38-42 Fax: 0032 2 2844944 richard.moreoferrall@europarl.europa.eu


From: Wall Street Journal ................................[This story printer-friendly]
December 13, 2006


[Rachel's introduction: The Wall Street Journal says, "The tough new law will require manufacturers and importers to document how some 30,000 chemicals are used in products from cleaning liquids and plastics to furniture and electronics. About 1,500 chemicals deemed most dangerous to humans and animals will be at the heart of a new regulatory battleground for manufacturers and chemical producers doing business in or with the EU."]

By Mary Jacoby

BRUSSELS -- The European Union greatly expanded its campaign against industrial pollutants, with lawmakers approving sweeping restrictions on chemicals that could upend global manufacturing and supply chains and saddle thousands of companies with huge costs.

The tough new law will require manufacturers and importers to document how some 30,000 chemicals are used in products from cleaning liquids and plastics to furniture and electronics. About 1,500 chemicals deemed most dangerous to humans and animals will be at the heart of a new regulatory battleground for manufacturers and chemical producers doing business in or with the EU -- the world's second-richest consumer market.

Precise rules underpinning the law will be hashed out over the next decade, making it hard to gauge the full cost or identify where supply problems might arise. But the uncertainty alone will complicate business planning and product development.

"There's mounds of uncertainty," said Eric Karofsky, a senior analyst with AMR Research in Boston, a manufacturing-consulting firm. Because it is unclear which substances will pass EU muster, "If you're a manufacturer, how do you go ahead and plan your business?"

A new agency in Helsinki, Finland, will compile a database of chemicals and their properties from data industry will be required to submit over the next decade, with the first phase of the regime expected to be in place by spring 2007. The most toxic substances could end up banned.

The direct costs of supplying safety information about a substance range from €20,000 to €400,000 ($26,528 to $530,560), depending on the volume of data requirements, according to the Parliament.

Companies on the front line of the issue -- chemicals, electronics and plastics makers among them -- are bracing for the effect of the landmark legislation, dubbed Reach for "registration, evaluation and authorization of chemicals." Many U.S. manufacturers appear to be counting on being considered so-called downstream users of targeted chemicals, as opposed to the manufacturers or importers that will be responsible for the substances' documentation. But how those roles are defined remains to be seen, and could prove tricky.

German chemical company BASF AG has budgeted "hundreds of millions of euros" to comply with the law and help its network of suppliers navigate the new bureaucracy, said Wolfgang Gerhard, BASF senior vice president for corporate and governmental relations. The company began two years ago setting up a database to track how thousands of substances are used in industrial processes, he said.

Finnish cellphone maker Nokia Corp. makes 150 products using 30,000 components and 500,000 direct and indirect suppliers, said Markus Terho, the company's director of environmental affairs. Nokia would have to show chemicals are being used safely in each step and switch to less-toxic alternatives.

Chris Huntley, a spokesman for Dow Chemical Co. of Midland, Minn., said the latest version of Reach is much improved, but that his company is concerned about how fast regulators will be able to register the 1,500 products. He said companies will have just 3.5 years to complete the process, while Dow understands the EU can register just 20 to 25 substances a year. "If they can't do it within four years, you could end up with a system that doesn't provide the confidence" it will work well, Mr. Huntley said.

He couldn't offer specific estimates of the cost of registering Dow products, but said it will be similar to BASF's -- in the hundreds of millions of euros.

Dan Turner, a spokesman for DuPont Co., said the Wilmington, Del., company will adopt a "business as usual" attitude for registering products containing perfluorooctanoic acid, used in the company's Teflon nonstick products. Studies show PFOA collects in women's breast milk, and have caused various illnesses in animals, but Mr. Turner said Dow doesn't believe PFOA is toxic.

Parker Hannifin Corp. of Cleveland, which makes a wide array of items such as hoses and hydraulic equipment used by thousands of other manufacturers, hopes that in most cases it will be considered a "downstream user" and thus avoid dealing directly with the regulatory hurdles. Rick Taylor, the company's director of environmental compliance, says one change he anticipates is shifting from directly importing chemicals into Europe for Parker's plants there -- in which case Parker would be responsible for certification -- to buying those chemicals from a supplier that already has dealt with the legal hurdles.

The big cost for companies like Parker, Mr. Taylor says, is likely to arise when suppliers suddenly stop selling certain chemicals because they don't want to deal with registration. That would require Parker to reformulate a product, which could create a cascade of problems with its customers.

Uncertainty is widespread among nonchemical companies about what, if anything, they may have to do. In a survey of 127 global makers of electronics products released this week by Technology Forecasters of Alameda, Calif., just 13% said they believe their products would be affected by Reach, while more than half -- 52% -- said they didn't know.

Europe has been a leader in imposing rules to get electronics companies, auto makers and others to clean up their acts. The Reach initiative comes on the heels of an edict called the Restriction of the use of certain Hazardous Substances, or RoHS, which took effect in June. It requires any electronics maker doing business in the EU to eliminate or sharply curtail six toxic substances, including lead, cadmium and mercury. In 2005, the EU put into effect a directive called WEEE -- for Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment -- that required electronics makers to set up recycling and disposal systems for their gadgets.

The three-year debate over the Reach law was at times emotional and personal. Environmentalists warned of babies drinking contaminated breast milk, while a member of the European Commission, the EU's executive arm, tested her blood and discovered 28 chemicals found in furniture, carpets and food that are potentially harmful to hormonal and reproductive systems.

Industry groups argued they already make strong efforts to use chemicals safely. A program run by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development in Paris already collects much of the data the EU law seeks, and covers industries in North America and most of Europe.

But environmentalists convinced European policy makers those programs aren't enough. "Hazardous industrial chemicals are widespread in house dust, rainwater, wildlife, in our own blood and that of unborn infants," said Justin Wilkes of WWF, formerly the World Wildlife Fund.

The U.S. has also expressed concern about the law, worried about its effect on U.S. exports. But EU leaders said the legislation would set a global standard and called on the U.S. and other nations to adopt similar restrictions.

The scope of Reach is vast: It will apply to any product made in or imported into the 480 million-person EU. Given the global nature of manufacturing and trade, companies large and small around the world will have to grapple with the rules.

"The costs of compliance are incalculable," said Adrian Harris, secretary-general of Orgalime, a trade association representing European electronics, metalworking and mechanical industries.

Under Reach, manufacturers will be required to substitute safer alternatives to the 1,500 most dangerous chemicals known or suspected to cause cancer, birth defects and other serious illnesses. Most have never been subjected to rigorous testing because they were in use before many countries began passing environmental-protection laws in the 1980s.

If an alternative doesn't exist, industry would need to fund research and development to try to find one. But in a compromise reached last month, regulators will be able to make exceptions for chemicals whose use in certain instances is considered more beneficial than detrimental to public health. Environmentalists called that compromise a giant loophole for the €586 billion ($776 billion) European chemicals industry.

An additional 140 substances not only considered toxic but that also linger for a particularly long time in the bodies of humans and animals face removal from the market. Such substances include flame retardants and other chemicals used to make carpets and textiles, electronics, paints and wax, and pots and pans.

It isn't clear how much the legislation will ultimately cost businesses. "It's huge. Nobody knows," says Steven Russell, a lawyer with the American Chemistry Council trade group in Washington. Some idea can be found in RoHS legislation that went into effect in June. The cost to U.S. electronics makers alone to remove the six substances from their manufacturing chains will be an estimated $30 billion, according to AMR's Mr. Karofsky.

-- Timothy Aeppel in Pittsburgh, Jim Carlton in San Francisco, Steve LeVine in Dallas and the Associated Press contributed to this article.

Write to Mary Jacoby at mary.jacoby@wsj.com1

Copyright 2006 Dow Jones & Company, Inc.


From: Houston (Tex.) Chronicle ...........................[This story printer-friendly]
December 13, 2006


[Rachel's introduction: The Houston Chronicle says, "Some dangerous chemicals could be banned from the European market and about 30,000 substances used in everyday products ranging from detergents to toys will have to be registered in a central European Union database under a law approved Wednesday."]

By Jan Sliva, Associated Press Writer

Strasbourg, France -- Some dangerous chemicals could be banned from the European market and about 30,000 substances used in everyday products ranging from detergents to toys will have to be registered in a central European Union database under a law approved Wednesday.

The European Parliament passed the law -- one of the most complex and far-reaching EU regulations ever -- after years of haggling marked by intense lobbying by the European chemicals industry and by protests from environmentalists who sought more restraints on the industry.

The law, a compromise balancing health and environmental concerns against fears that excessive red tape would stifle business, puts the burden of proof on companies to show that industrial chemicals and substances used in everyday products are safe.

It is likely to take effect in mid-2007.

"It is a major step forward for public health, workers' safety and protection of the environment. In the end, we want to get rid of the most dangerous chemicals while boosting research and development in Europe," said Italian Socialist Guido Sacconi, who was charged with steering the legislation through the EU assembly.

Under the rules, producers will have to register the properties of chemicals with an agency to be set up in Helsinki, Finland, that will have powers to ban those presenting significant health threats. Companies will be required to gradually replace the most high-risk chemicals -- so-called persistent, bioaccumulative and toxic substances _ where safer alternatives exist. If no alternative exists, producers will have to submit a plan to develop one.

Because of fears over potential job losses, the parliament scaled back chemicals-testing requirements in the first reading of the law -- known as REACH, for Registration, Evaluation and Authorization of Chemicals _ last year. Some 13,000 substances, deemed of high concern, face automatic testing, but almost all tests were waived for little- used chemicals of which only 1 to 10 metric tons are produced or imported into the EU annually.

EU governments further scaled back the law passed Tuesday on second reading in an effort to reduce costs for the EU's chemicals industry, worth about $582.9 billion and employing 1.3 million people in 27,000 companies.

The registration process for all of the 30,000 chemicals should be completed in 11 years. The first stage of the process aims to register substances that are produced in the largest quantities and the most harmful ones, such as carcinogens, mutagens and toxins affecting reproduction.

The direct costs of supplying safety information about a substance range from $26,500 to $530,000, depending on the volume of data requirements, according to the parliament.

REACH replaces some 40 directives currently governing the use of chemicals in the EU. In the past, companies could sell almost any chemical without being required to provide detailed health and safety information.

The compromise has been criticized both by industry, which complains it is too complicated and will burden companies with unnecessary bureaucracy, and environmentalists, who say it will allow dangerous chemicals to enter the market through loopholes.

"This deal is an early Christmas present for the chemicals industry, rewarding it for its intense and underhand lobbying campaign. We are deeply worried that the key goal of this legislation -- to offer EU citizens and the environment sufficient protection from dangerous chemicals -- appears to have been lost in the haste to agree a compromise," said lawmaker Caroline Lucas of Britain's Green Party.

Environmentalists are also worried that under REACH, many high-concern chemicals will be allowed onto the market if producers can prove they can adequately control them.

The United States has also expressed concern about the law, worried about its effect on U.S. exports. But EU leaders said the legislation would set a global standard and called on the Americans and other nations to adopt similar restrictions.

"From a global perspective, the safety requirements established by REACH will be on a completely new level," said Finnish Trade Minister Mauri Pekkarinen, speaking for the EU presidency.


Rachel's Precaution Reporter offers news, views and practical examples of the Precautionary Principle, or Foresight Principle, in action. The Precautionary Principle is a modern way of making decisions, to minimize harm. Rachel's Precaution Reporter tries to answer such questions as, Why do we need the precautionary principle? Who is using precaution? Who is opposing precaution?

We often include attacks on the precautionary principle because we believe it is essential for advocates of precaution to know what their adversaries are saying, just as abolitionists in 1830 needed to know the arguments used by slaveholders.

Rachel's Precaution Reporter is published as often as necessary to provide readers with up-to-date coverage of the subject.

As you come across stories that illustrate the precautionary principle -- or the need for the precautionary principle -- please Email them to us at rpr@rachel.org.

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