Health Care Without Harm  [Printer-friendly version]
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"The EU has taken a major step toward reforming an outdated chemical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

"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:

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,