November 17, 2005

Parliament backs new EU law on toxic chemicals

STRASBOURG, France (Reuters) - The European Parliament,
seeking to protect the public from toxic substances, backed a
landmark new law on Thursday that has pitted Europe's chemicals
industry against environmental groups for years.

Lawmakers voted in favor of an amended bill on
Registration, Evaluation and Authorization of Chemicals
(REACH), designed to make companies prove that substances in
everyday products such as cars, computers or paint are safe.

The properties of roughly 30,000 chemicals produced or
imported in the European Union would have to be registered with
a central agency. Those of highest concern, such as
carcinogens, would require testing and Authorization to be

The EU legislature voted 407-155 for the legislation with
41 abstentions. The rules must still be agreed by EU member
states and may come back to parliament before they can become a

The amendments approved included a compromise that largely
reduced the number of chemicals requiring testing.

Lawmakers also supported a measure that would force firms
to substitute safe chemicals for hazardous ones when
alternatives are available.

Germany, Europe's largest chemicals producer with giants
like BASF and Bayer, successfully delayed a decision by member
states scheduled for later this month, but Britain, which holds
the EU presidency, wants a deal this year.

The European Commission, original author of REACH,
forecasts it will cost the chemical industry 2.3 billion euros
over 11 years. Total costs to industry -- including sectors
like metals, textiles, electronics and cars -- are estimated
between 2.8 billion and 5.2 billion euros.

The United States and African nations have said REACH would
disrupt trade and hurt their industries.