Women in Europe for a Common Future  [Printer-friendly version]
December 13, 2006

REACH: BARELY ALIVE AND IN CRITICAL CONDITION

[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.

Contacts:

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