From: Associated Press
Published October 5, 2005 12:00 AM

Environmentalists and Industry Head for Clash on New EU Chemicals Law

BRUSSELS, Belgium — Environmentalists claimed victory in a key European Parliament vote on a new chemicals law Tuesday, paving the way for a clash with pro-business groups at a full legislative ballot next month.


The Parliament's environment committee voted to strengthen controls on hazardous chemicals and force firms to replace toxic chemicals with safer alternatives. The so-called REACH bill has pitted industry leaders against environmentalists in a battle over jobs versus health and environmental concerns.


Before it can become law, the proposal also must be approved by EU governments.


Dutch center-right parliamentarian Ria Oomen-Ruijten said the vote was "very, very disappointing," warning that 1.3 million European jobs were at risk.


"This proposal will have the effect that, if accepted, the chemicals industry will move towards Asian countries, towards Japan and the U.S.," she said.


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The draft law would require manufacturers to perform health tests on some 30,000 chemicals used in products ranging from household cleaners to car parts. The proposals shift responsibility for the testing to companies from government.


Industry leaders are demanding the scope of testing be reduced to only 4,000 or maximum 5,000 substances that pose the greatest risks, while other substances should undergo only rudimentary testing. They say each chemical would cost them around 20,000 euros ($26,000) to test and submit to a public registry run by the EU.


An environmental coalition -- which includes Greenpeace and the World Wildlife Fund -- said politicians had the chance to protect future generations and their environment.


"It should not be sacrificed for the shortsighted interests of the chemical industry," it said.


Source: Associated Press


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