PRO AND CON ON EU CHEMICALS PLAN
Industry wants to change draft, but new study predicts health-cost savings
Comment time for the European Union's proposed chemicals policy has come to an end, with a wide variety of commentsfrom industry groups, companies, and individualsfiled at the designated website.
Last week, the European Chemical Industry Council (CEFIC) spelled out its concerns about the policy, originally proposed for discussion in a white paper, and offered suggestions for a workable system for EU chemicals regulation. CEFIC's basic point: "The draft text must be reconsidered and fundamentally reviewed."
|Voscherau CEFIC PHOTO
According to Eggert Voscherau, president of CEFIC, the draft proposals go far beyond what was initially proposed in the white paper on the future strategy for chemicals and will probably overwhelm the authorities and industry while not delivering what is expected (C&EN, Feb. 26, 2001, page 34).
At the heart of the policy is the so-called REACH program, which stands for registration, evaluation, and authorization of chemicals.
CEFIC's submission suggests adjusting the scope of REACH by limiting coverage to materials of high concern over safety and toxicity and to nonpolymeric substances placed on the market in quantities of more than 1 metric ton per year, thereby exempting polymers and process intermediates. CEFIC also addresses the management of the REACH system. And CEFIC raises the issue of proportionality, aiming to ensure that the benefits obtained by REACH would make the costs worthwhile.
Crucially, CEFIC notes, the EU must ensure that any system adopted is aligned with World Trade Organization rules. Indeed, international trade partners are already convinced that the chemicals policy is contrary to WTO rules. In its comments to the EU, for example, the American Chemistry Council (ACC) noted that the proposal would disrupt markets and violate WTO rules without improving health, safety, or the environment.
"This proposal ignores the global nature of business," ACC President and CEO Greg Lebedev says. "It's simply unworkable for both EU companies and their trading partners."
The industry's protests, however, cut no ice with environmental groups. They argue that the proposed policy will reduce or end exposure to hazardous contaminants, in part because particularly dangerous chemicals will be phased out.
A study commissioned by the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) in the U.K. concludes that the proposed REACH policy could mean health savings of nearly $300 billion between now and 2020--even after taking into account the costs to businesses of implementation of the plan. The savings, say WWF report authors David W. Pearce and Phoebe Koundouri, come from ending health problems caused by exposure to chemicals, possibly including problems such as diabetes, I.Q. loss, Parkinson's disease, and premature death.
Justin Woolford, WWF U.K.'s chemicals campaign leader, adds, "This report makes a mockery of statements put out by the [U.K.] Chemical Industry Association." Warnings of possible job losses and economic damage "are simply scaremongering," he says.
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