Stage is set for final battle as REACH vote ends in unwelcome compromise

The final decision on REACH still looks set to be the subject of a pitched battle between NGOs and industry as the controversial chemical control package clears another hurdle on the rocky road to regulation.

On Tuesday, October 4 the European Parliament’s environment and public health committee debated the proposals, agreeing to less controls for companies dealing with relatively small quantities of chemicals but to keep big business on a tight leash.

It will recommend that those importing or manufacturing one to ten tonnes of a chemical each year should have lower registration requirements but wants to keep in place extended data requirements for those involved with ten to 100 tonnes.

The committee is also calling for a requirement to use safe alternative to chemicals which could damage human health or the environment where they are available.

The committee must now attempt to steer REACH through the full assembly while keeping its proposals intact.

It will be difficult to please all of the people on REACH but so far the pro-environment lobby is claiming the committee’s stance as a qualified victory for the planet, welcoming strengthened controls on hazardous chemicals, but saying regulation of a vast number of chemicals was still too weak.

In a statement a coalition of environmental and consumer lobby groups including the European Environment Bureau (EEB) and Greenpeace said: “A REACH adopted on this basis would not deliver the health and environment protection the public expects, as it would leave thousands of lower volume chemicals without basic toxicity data and so would hamper the identification of potentially harmful chemicals, such as hormone disruptors.

“In November, the European Parliament has the chance to reinforce

REACH in its plenary session, to ensure that the legislation will help both

identify and replace all hazardous chemicals.

“This is a unique opportunity to protect future generations and their environment and it should not be sacrificed for the short-sighted interests of the chemicals industry.”

Industrial concerns have, however, claimed the environment committee’s position will lead to a tangled bureaucratic web that will do little to ensure safe use of chemicals while damaging Europe’s competitiveness.

Judith Hackitt, Director General of the Chemical Industries Association said: “We are deeply disappointed by this outcome which threatens to undo much of the good work that many people have done over the last five years.

“We urge the Parliament as a whole to achieve a better balance when it comes to vote in Plenary in November.

“We all want new chemicals legislation which is workable and which restores confidence in the safe use of chemicals throughout the supply chain, but this is not it.

“We need a system that enables information on thirty thousand chemicals to be brought forward in a way that is relevant to the risk that a chemical poses to man and the environment.

“The environment committee has gone for a bureaucratic tick box approach which is heavy on paperwork and short on real benefits, and that is not in line with the Better Regulation agenda “.

By Sam Bond

Action inspires action. Stay ahead of the curve with sustainability and energy newsletters from edie