EU’s REACH legislation on toxics in jeopardy

On the verge of becoming law, Europe’s REACH legislation on toxic chemicals is a huge step forward. It requires that chemical companies prove their products are safe before introduction in the marketplace, as opposed to the status quo (in the US and Canada, too) where chemicals are innocent until proven guilty, which can take decades. Now it looks like, backed by the Bush administration, the Blair government is seeking to undermine REACH at the 11th hour.

From The Independent:

Britain sabotages EU law to control toxic chemicals

By Geoffrey Lean

Published: 19 November 2006



Ministers are sabotaging laws to control toxic chemicals despite fears that they are causing a “silent epidemic” of brain disorders in British children, a leaked document shows.

The document reveals how, after pressure from the Bush administration, the Government has successfully led opposition to a Europe-wide measure that would make companies use safe chemicals when they work just as well as poisonous ones. It sets out a British proposal to emasculate the law that was accepted last year by all European Union governments.

The law is the first attempt to regulate more than 100,000 chemicals in use in Europe. There is little or no safety information on 85 per cent of the ones in common use: the Registration, Evaluation and Authorisation of Chemicals (Reach) directive aims to get companies to carry out safety tests on chemicals – and to control the most dangerous ones.

This month, top Danish and American researchers warned that the chemicals could be behind “a silent epidemic” of brain disorders. In a report published by The Lancet they identified 202 chemicals known to poison the brain, saying they were likely to be “the tip of a very large iceberg”.

They pointed out that one in six British children suffers from some kind of development disability, including autism, attention deficit disorder, mental retardation and cerebral palsy.

Last month, Dr Andreas Kortenkamp, head of the Centre of Toxicology at the University of London’s School of Pharmacy, concluded that routine exposure to “gender-bender” chemicals, used in many everyday products, could be one of the causes of a big increase in breast cancer over the past three decades.

In September, research by WWF-UK (formerly the World Wildlife Fund) found hazardous chemicals to be widespread in food on supermarket shelves.

Britain originally supported Reach, but after lobbying by the Bush administration – which fears it will damage US exports – it switched to denouncing it as “dangerously wrong”.

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