NGOs condemn chemical compromise

Environmental pressure groups have condemned a political deal designed to get the controversial REACH agreement through the European Parliament, claiming the compromise will lead to ineffective legislation.

Both WWF and Friends of the Earth have said they are seriously concerned that the latest version of the chemical safety standards will not go far enough to protect either human health or the environment.

The plenary vote on REACH is expected to take place in a week and the three main political groups in Europe have been negotiating a deal to avoid a postponement of the vote.

Among the conditions of the deal is the industry-friendly agreement to further reduce the safety data required for the registration of chemicals.

In a statement on the deal conservation and environmental charity WWF said: “WWF is deeply concerned that with this new deal being even weaker than the previous compromise achieved by the Environment Committee of the Parliament, REACH will be unable to effectively address the failure of the current chemicals legislation and to protect human health and the environment.

“We should not forget that the REACH reform was originally conceived to close the knowledge gap on chemicals and establish a much more effective and coherent system for a safer chemicals management.

“Unfortunately, rather than moving towards an effective new EU policy on chemicals, a process is underway that will render it unable to deliver on its original aims.”

In the run up to the vote Friends of the Earth has released a study attacking the chemical industry for lobbying against parts of the proposed REACH legislation, accusing it of putting profits before health and the environment.

The report is based on a survey of 31 corporate members of the European chemical industry on their attitudes towards REACH-related issues such as substitution and phasing out of chemicals of very high concern and consumers’ right to know about chemicals in products they purchase.

FoE claims the report exposes weaknesses in the pro-chemical lobby’s arguments for a less restrictive REACH, saying the financial impact of implementing the regulations has been overestimated and that the industry should not be given free rein to self regulate.

“The industry has been pushing parliamentarians to weaken REACH almost to

the point of destruction,” said Paul de Clerck, Friends of the Earth

Europe’s corporate accountability campaigner.

“It is alarming and saddening to see members of the European Parliament giving in to demands of big corporations and ignoring public health and the environment”

By Sam Bond

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