EU governments, parliament agree on chemical law
BRUSSELS, Belgium (AP) _ European Union governments and lawmakers agreed late Thursday on new legislation to control the use of chemicals in industry after years of haggling over how to balance health and environmental concerns against fears that excessive red tape would stifle business.
The Registration, Evaluation and Authorization of Chemicals law, or REACH, is one of the largest ever EU laws put together by the 25-nation EU bloc. It foresees the registration of some 30,000 chemicals with a new European agency with powers to ban those deemed to present significant health threats.
``Manufacturers and importers now have to demonstrate that the products, the chemicals they are putting on the market are safe,'' Chris Davies, a British Liberal member of the European Parliament who helped negotiate the compromise text, said Friday.
The agreement reached just before midnight between the 25 EU governments and the three main political groups in the European Parliament is now expected to be approved by the full assembly next week. Environment ministers will then give final approval on Dec. 18.
Environmentalists denounced the agreement, saying EU lawmakers and governments watered down the bill.
``The deal will allow many chemicals of very high concern, including many that cause cancer, birth defects and other serious illnesses to stay on the market and be used in consumer products even when safer alternatives are available,'' said a statement from seven campaign groups, including Greenpeace and the World Wide Fund for Nature.
Under the law, manufacturers are required to substitute around 1,500 chemicals with safer alternatives if their use is economically viable. However, the campaigners said the compromise allows producers too much leeway in deciding themselves if the alternatives can be used.
The legislation, first proposed by the European Commission in 2003, has long been resisted by the EU's euro600 billion a year chemicals industry.