REACH must limit costs for business but maintain benefits for environment

A workshop into the impacts of the REACH proposals concluded this week with the Dutch Presidency recognising the importance of the regulations for health and the environment but also that its cost-effectiveness for industry must be maximised.

Member State officials discussed an overview study of 36 REACH impact assessments and focused on four main themes:

  • the Impact of REACH on society;
  • the direct costs to industry;
  • the indirect costs to industry;
  • the impact on competitiveness and innovation.

    Environmental groups congratulated the Dutch Presidency for conducting the study.

    "The Dutch Presidency's REACH impact assessment workshop should lead to a more rational debate on REACH, by putting the costs in the broader context, which shows them to be relatively small. Parliament and Council now need to move forward in finishing - and strengthening - REACH, so that we can all be protected from the worst chemicals," said Nadia Haiama-Neurohr of Greenpeace.

    REACH (Registration, Evaluation, and Authorisation of Chemical substances) aims to limit the risks of hazardous substances. It should bring positive consequences on society as a whole, but will have high costs to implement. These would fall not only on the chemical industry but on the downstream users of the industry's products.

    However, the study gives recommendations on how to reduce the costs of REACH and also points out that, if the use of chemicals is actually regulated as proposed in the legislation, the improvements in people's health would run to tens of billions of Euros. The number of cancer deaths would be reduced by several thousands, especially among people working with hazardous substances.

    Stefan Scheur from the EEB said the idea of crippling costs was an industry biased view. "The costs of phasing in REACH are the result of 25 years of irresponsible behaviour and are miniscule compared to expected costs of uncontrolled chemical pollution. REACH is giving industry 11 years to close the safety gap. The analysis of the 36 REACH impact assessments has shown that we cannot predict the future economy and market behaviour. It is time to take the decisions needed to end the contamination of our bodies and the environment."

    In November, Dutch economics minister Karien Van Gennip will chair a meeting of EU competitiveness ministers to try and find further agreement on the main elements of the proposals, including the registration procedure which will account for the highest amount of direct costs.

    By David Hopkins

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