Rachel's Precaution Reporter #13
Wednesday, November 23, 2005

From: Los Angeles Times ...................................[This story printer-friendly]
November 18, 2005


[Rachel's introduction: Europe's long-awaited chemicals policy, known as REACH, is enacted, though in substantially-weakened form.]

By Marla Cone

The European Parliament on Thursday [Nov. 17] approved legislation requiring safety testing of thousands of compounds widely used in everyday products, endorsing a policy that would overhaul how the public was protected from toxic chemicals.

The regulation, if approved by a council of Europe's national governments, would force industries worldwide to test their chemicals for effects on human health and the environment. It would be the world's strictest standard, eclipsing U.S. laws, and could lead to global bans on some compounds.

Chemicals found in a variety of products -- such as computers, cosmetics, cars, furniture, detergent and pesticides -- would have to undergo basic toxicity testing. Those used in the largest volumes would be subjected to more rigorous testing.

Called Reach, or Registration, Evaluation and Authorization of Chemicals, the law could cost American industries that export products to Europe billions of dollars. The Bush administration and the U.S. chemical industry teamed to fight the European Union's proposal, calling it unworkable and excessive.

"If enacted, manufacturers and consumer product companies from Boston to Bombay that use essential chemical products would be impacted by this misguided scheme," said Jack N. Gerard, president and chief executive of the American Chemistry Council, a chemical industry trade group.

Under current U.S. and EU laws, most chemicals -- those that were used before 1981 in Europe and 1976 in the United States -- are not required to undergo toxicity testing.

The new European law was prompted by discoveries that chemicals are amassing in human bodies, particularly breast milk, as well as in wildlife. In most cases, the potential dangers are unknown. Some 70,000 to 100,000 chemicals are in commerce today, and experts say that more than 90% have not been subjected to basic toxicity testing for health and ecological effects.

"These new rules will make a huge difference in protecting people's health, both at work and in everyday life, and in safeguarding our environment," said Guido Sacconi, a member of the Italian Socialist party who brokered the policy approved Thursday.

"Companies will have to show that the chemicals they produce or import are safe. But the competitiveness of European firms will not be threatened."

Parliament's vote, which came after years of debate and thousands of amendments, was considered a major hurdle. Europe's diverse political parties -- led by the conservative People's Party and the Socialists -- agreed after major concessions were made to accommodate some of industry's concerns.

The proposal now goes to Europe's other legislative assembly, the Council of Ministers, which represents the EU's 25 member states. The council already is considering a draft, crafted by Britain, that is similar to the one Parliament adopted, and a vote could come next month. Europe's executive branch, the European Commission, approved Reach two years ago and has endorsed the new concessions.

Members of the European Commission overseeing both industry and environmental issues say the legislation could become final in December.

"All in all, there is hope for this to be on the statute book by the end of the year," Gunter Verheugen, vice president of the commission who is responsible for enterprise and industry, told Parliament when it began its debate Tuesday.

Under the legislation, companies would have to register about 30,000 chemicals, those used in volumes of at least one ton per year, with a newly created European agency.

Chemicals considered the most dangerous -- because they have been linked to cancer or reproductive effects, or because they build up in the environment -- would require authorization by the new agency or their use in products sold in Europe would be prohibited. Businesses would have to opt for safer substitutes if they were available.

Scientists say that low doses of many chemicals found in human bodies have been shown in animals to alter sex hormones, brains and immune cells.

European officials called the debate over Reach a legislative marathon, among their most controversial and complex initiatives since the EU was created. Lobbying was intense, with environmental activists and unions battling large industries.

Stavros Dimas, Europe's environmental commissioner, said the legislation "marks the beginning of a new era for chemical safety."

He said it would "increase the confidence of consumers in the chemical products they come in touch with" and "spur innovation and encourage substitution by safer products."

Parliament, convening in Strasbourg, France, voted 407 to 155 in favor with 41 abstentions.

Sacconi said that "unbelievable pressure" came from large industries. The European chemical industry has sales of more than $600 billion a year and employs 1.3 million people, mostly in Germany.

The Competitive Enterprise Institute, a U.S.-based free-market think tank, said in a report written for European counterparts that Reach would be "costly for the world, suicidal for Europe" and contended that there was no proof of environmental or health benefits.

The testing would be phased in over an 11-year period. The European Commission estimates that costs to industry would be $2 billion to $6 billion over the 11 years but would be offset by $58 billion in healthcare cost savings over three decades.

Parliament officials said Thursday that industry's fears of overregulation struck a chord with most members, so they eased some provisions. Fewer of the estimated 17,000 chemicals used in annual volumes of less than 10 tons would require safety tests. They would have to be registered but less data would be required, and some would not need any testing.

Conservative party members and industry representatives welcomed the compromise because it minimized costly animal testing and eased the burden on smaller businesses. On the other hand, they oppose another provision added by Parliament that allows the most hazardous chemicals to be authorized for only five-year periods. They fear it will be a bureaucratic nightmare for the chemical industry.

Jonas Sjostedt, a member of Sweden's Socialist party in Parliament, said Socialists voted for the legislation because "a weak Reach is better than no Reach at all." He said the proposal "was radically weakened" and his party voted in favor "without enthusiasm."

Environmental groups said the provisions pertaining to the lower- volume chemicals were so watered down that Reach would not protect the public. They are seeking to persuade the Council of Ministers to strengthen them.

"It would leave thousands of chemicals without basic toxicity data, and so would hamper the identification of harmful chemicals, such as hormone disrupters," said a coalition of seven groups, including World Wildlife Fund and Greenpeace.

Copyright 2005 Los Angeles Times


From: BBC News ............................................[This story printer-friendly]
November 17, 2005


[Rachel's introduction: Europe's precautionary chemicals policy will require safety testing of 10,000 common chemicals.]

The European Parliament has approved far-reaching legislation which will lead to the safety testing of thousands of chemicals used in everyday products.

The law, called Reach -- Registration, Evaluation and Authorisation of Chemicals -- would create one database including all chemicals used in the EU.

Employers say it will impose heavy costs and cause firms to flee Europe.

MEPs also included a measure obliging firms to replace hazardous chemicals with safe ones, whenever possible.

The regulation has to be approved by national governments before it can become law, and may return to the parliament for another vote next year.


Reach in its original form would have led to about 30,000 substances - found in everything from cars to computers to children's toys -- being tested for their impact on health and the environment.

It has been intensely controversial, prompting some of the biggest lobbying campaigns ever seen in Brussels, with industry on one side and unions, and health and environmental groups on the other.

Last week, the largest political groups in the European Parliament - the conservative European People's Party and the Socialist group - agreed on a compromise, limiting the amount of data required for substances used in volumes of less than 10 tonnes.

All of the 30,000 chemicals will still need to be registered, but up to two-thirds of them may be exempted from tests.

Instead, a new European Chemicals Agency, based in Helsinki, will decide which of these chemicals used in low volumes are risky enough to have to pass through the testing procedure.

Duty of care

Businesses wanting to use the most dangerous chemicals will have to get special authorisation from the agency.

The European Parliament also voted for improved labelling of products made with chemicals thought to be harmful.

Up to now, chemicals put on the market before 1981 -- the vast majority of those currently in use -- have not had to be checked for their effects on health and the environment.

The onus has been on public health authorities in individual countries to test those they suspect may be dangerous.

Reach puts the burden of proof, and a "duty of care", on business.

The tests would have to be carried out in phases over 11 years, starting with the most dangerous substances, and those used in the largest volumes.

'Strongest protection'

Italian Socialist MEP Guido Sacconi, who steered Reach through the parliament's environment committee, said the vote gave Europe the "strongest protection in the world" from dangerous chemicals.

He added that "unbelievable pressure" was brought to bear on MEPs by big businesses.

Nadine Toscani, a senior policy adviser at Unice, a pro-business lobby group, said: "The legislation is going in the right direction."

But, a group of green groups, including Friends of the Earth and Greenpeace, said the MEPs had diluted the legislation too far.

"A Reach adopted the on this basis will not deliver the health and environment protection the public needs, as it would leave thousands of chemicals without basic toxicity data," the groups said in a joint statement.

The European Consumers Organisation, BEUC, also said the law, as amended by parliament, would not "identify risks and hazards that need to be identified".


1,000 pages of text already, rising potentially to 15,000 1,000 amendments voted on

30,000 chemicals to be registered over 11 years

At least one million more animal tests

Estimated costs of $5.9 US dollars ($5bn euros) for business over 11 years

Billions of euros saved in healthcare costs

Q&A: Reach chemicals law http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/europe/4437304.stm

In quotes: Reach reaction http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/europe/4446880.stm

Story from BBC NEWS: http://news.bbc.co.uk/go/pr/fr/-/1/hi/world/europe/4444550.stm

Published: 2005/11/17 13:00:33 GMT

Copyright BBC MMV


From: Environment Daily ..................................[This story printer-friendly]
October 19, 2005


[Rachel's introduction: Europe's precautionary chemicals policy will pay for itself by producing substantial health benefits, which translate into large monetary savings, a study finds.]

Implementing the EU's REACH chemical policy will yield much larger occupational health benefits than previously thought, scientists commissioned by Europe's trade union movement have claimed. Even in the first ten years these benefits alone could exceed the entire cost of implementation, the scientists say.

The research was unveiled in the European parliament on Monday at a meeting organised by EU trade union body Etuc and hosted by Guido Sacconi, the assembly's rapporteur for Reach. Mr Sacconi stressed the importance of safeguarding workers' health and said it was essential that Reach was not weakened.

Carried out at the University of Sheffield, the research breaks new ground by focusing on how far Reach, as proposed by the European Commission in 2003, will avoid skin and respiratory diseases other than cancer, including dermatitis and chronic pulmonary obstructive disease.

Previous studies have focused more on cancers, study co-author Simon Pickvance told Environment Daily. Whereas these tend to emerge over a long time period, the diseases now looked at appear more quickly, he said.

In the first ten years of Reach, the study calculates the benefits for avoidance of these diseases at $.77-$7.3bn, with a midpoint estimate of around $4.12bn. Over a longer, 30-year period, it puts the benefits at $24.7-$189.7bn, with a midpoint of around $106bn.

In contrast, the European Commission reckons Reach will cost $3.3-$6.1bn to implement over 15 years. The main previous estimate of Reach's health benefits, carried out for the commission by consultancy RPA, is $31.8bn over 30 years.

The scientists used new methods to calculate the incidence of three diseases related to workplace exposure to chemicals. They then estimated the proportion that will be avoided by implementing Reach. For asthma, for example, they expect Reach to avoid 50% of relevant cases, or 40,000 per year. Finally, they monetised the benefits of this avoidance.

The benefits will be felt by very large numbers of workers in many chemical using sectors, Mr Pickvance told Environment Daily, not just industrial operations such as car spraying, but also all users of cleaning products. Many millions of people across Europe are therefore involved, he said.

It was "impossible" at this stage to say whether amendments simplifying Reach that look set to be adopted by EU governments and MEPs would significantly affect the estimates, Mr Pickvance added.

Follow-up: Etuc, tel: +32 2 224 0411, and the study.


From: Fox News ............................................[This story printer-friendly]
November 17, 2005


[Rachel's introduction: Europe's REACH chemicals policy will affect U.S. corporations selling in the European market. Right-wing extremists fear that Europe's embrace of a broader precautionary approach will creep across the Atlantic.]

By Steven Milloy

As globalization fosters economic growth around the world, Americans should be vigilant of an unintended consequence: the imposition on U.S. businesses and consumers of the non-science-based, environmentalist-promoted, European Union-embraced standard known as the "precautionary principle."

The precautionary principle is the subject of a new Washington Legal Foundation report entitled "Exporting Precaution: How Europe's Risk- Free Regulatory Agenda Threatens American Free Enterprise."

Authored by Lawrence Kogan of the Institute for Trade Standards and Sustainable Development, the report describes how "international bureaucrats and influential activist groups use the precautionary principle as a vehicle to diminish America's competitive position in the global economy and advance special interest agendas hostile to free enterprise and technology."

Kogan aptly calls the precautionary principle "regulation without representation."

The precautionary principle is a scheme for establishing environmental, health and safety regulations that are based on irrational fears rather than empirical science.

Under the precautionary principle, activities, products and substances may be banned or restricted if it is merely possible that they or the processes used for their manufacture, formulation or assembly might cause health or environmental harm under some unknown and unspecified future circumstances. In other words: It focuses on purely hypothetical risks rather than actual hazards.

The precautionary principle inherently rejects scientific and cost- benefit analysis as bases for regulation. It is arbitrariness unleashed in the hands of powerful government regulators and others who have no use for facts or common sense.

Although the European Union expressly admitted that no evidence indicates biotech foods are less safe than conventional foods, the EU's precautionary principle-based Biosafety Protocol was used to block more than $2 billion worth of U.S. biotech crop exports from 1998 to 2005, according to Kogan.

The EU's Cosmetics Directive bans the use of chemicals called "phthalates" in cosmetic products even though no scientific data suggest that consumer exposure to phthalates in cosmetics and personal care products poses a human health risk. By also banning animal testing on most cosmetics prior to consumer use, Kogan says, a strictly applied Cosmetics Directive would run counter to U.S. laws and regulations mandating animal testing of cosmetics classified as over-the-counter drugs and require reformulation of almost all current cosmetics products.

The EU also intends to make the garbage pail obsolete by presuming that all trash is hazardous. Under the precautionary principle, EU businesses must develop "life cycle management principles" that include "take-back" provisions under which businesses must reclaim and dispose of all new products put on the market upon their obsolescence, mostly at business' expense.

The EU also applies the precautionary principle to industrial chemicals, disinfectants, preservatives and global warming. Science is out; capriciousness is in.

The tangible impact of the precautionary principle is immense.

"The administrative, financial and legal burdens imposed by EU precaution-based environmental regulations are cumulatively equivalent to a hidden business tax that, as of 1999, constituted as much as 15 percent of the new capital invested by certain European industry sectors," writes Kogan.

The precautionary principle may help to explain why EU nations lag behind the U.S. in economic growth. According to a June 2004 report from the Swedish think tank Timbro, U.S. gross domestic product (the measure of the value of the goods and services produced by a country in a given year), was 17 percent higher than the nearest European country, Switzerland.

There are also intangible costs associated with the precautionary principle. Intellectual property rights are compromised because confidential information must be shared among producers, intermediaries and distributors in a product's vertical supply chain. Labeling steers consumers to bureaucrat- and environmentalist- preferred products, such as those labeled "eco-friendly," rather than politically incorrect brand name goods.

It doesn't take too much to imagine the harm the precautionary principle could do if imported into the U.S. as a legal standard. Existing standards of negligence, strict liability, products liability and public nuisance might go out the window in favor of legal outcomes like the $253 million verdict against Merck in a recent Vioxx trial.

Although Merck had complied with all legal requirements for testing and labeling and there was no scientific evidence supporting the verdict, emotional jurors nevertheless wanted to send Merck and the drug industry a precautionary principle-tyoe message: 'Stop doing the minimum to put your drug on the market," Kogan points out.

And all this may be coming our way.

Kogan describes how American and European environmental and so-called "social responsibility" groups operated fear campaigns to generate public pressure for the EU to implement the precautionary principle. Now, these same groups are using strict EU laws and regulations as a platform for promoting similar regulatory change in the U.S.

Large multinational corporations, primary instruments of globalization that are subject to EU regulation, are now trying to import those same regulations back to the U.S. General Electric, for example, is subject to the EU-adopted Kyoto Protocol, and is actively advocating that Congress enact global warming regulation. Significantly hampered by its self-inflicted wound, the EU supports U.S. adoption of the precautionary principle as a means to become more economically competitive with American products and services.

We ought to take action "to extinguish the complex threat posed by the precautionary principle," Kogan writes. "The stakes are very high. America's very enterprise system, individual freedoms and international interests may be hanging in the balance."

Steven Milloy publishes JunkScience.com and CSRwatch.com, is adjunct scholar at the Cato Institute, and is the author of Junk Science Judo: Self-defense Against Health Scares and Scams (Cato Institute, 2001).

Copyright 2005 FOX News Network, LLC.


Rachel's Precaution Reporter offers news, views and practical examples of the Precautionary Principle, or Foresight Principle, in action. The Precautionary Principle is a modern way of making decisions, to minimize harm. Rachel's Precaution Reporter tries to answer such questions as, Why do we need the precautionary principle? Who is using precaution? Who is opposing precaution?

We often include attacks on the precautionary principle because we believe it is essential for advocates of precaution to know what their adversaries are saying, just as abolitionists in 1830 needed to know the arguments used by slaveholders.

Rachel's Precaution Reporter is published as often as necessary to provide readers with up-to-date coverage of the subject.

As you come across stories that illustrate the precautionary principle -- or the need for the precautionary principle -- please Email them to us at rpr@rachel.org.

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