Friday, December 01, 2006

European Parliament & Council Seal Deal On REACH

Dec 1: Delegations from the European Parliament and the Council hammered out a deal on the Registration, Evaluation, Authorization of CHemicals (REACH), the draft regulation on chemical products, at their sixth set of informal negotiations, which ended at around 11:00 PM on Thursday (November 30) [See WIMS 10/12/06 & 11/30/06]. The compromise will be put to the vote by the full Parliament at the plenary session scheduled for December 13 – if approved, the proposal would become law at this, second reading, stage. Parliament’s rapporteur, Guido Sacconi (PES, IT) confirmed at a press conference on Friday that agreement had been reached with the Finnish Presidency on the whole of the REACH package. The agreement must now be confirmed by the Member States’ representatives and by the full Parliament during the next plenary session in Strasbourg. Sacconi said, “I call on all the Parliament’s political groups to support me at the plenary.” If approved the deal would mark the end of a three-year long battle that has pitted industry and environmentalists debating the costs and benefits of the new chemicals control regime.

According to a release, the main points of the package agreed are as follows: (1) Agency: Parliament will appoint two members of the Helsinki-based European Chemicals Agency and the Executive Director will take part in a hearing with MEPs before his/her appointment is confirmed. (2) Authorization: for dangerous substances, there will be an obligation to submit a substitution plan to replace them with safer alternatives. Where no alternative exists, producers will have to present a research and development plan. (3) Endocrine disrupters: a clause was agreed, to review after six years, on the basis of the latest scientific data, the inclusion of substances with endocrine disrupter properties among those which can only be authorized if the socio-economic benefits of their use is higher than the risk to human health or the environment, and if no safer alternative exists. (4) Intellectual property provisions have been strengthened with data protection extended from 3 to 6 years. (5) Duty of Care: this principle is enshrined in the regulation in a recital which recalls that the manufacturing, importing or placing on the market of substances should, under reasonable foreseeable circumstances, not adversely affect human health or the environment. (6) Animal welfare: changes have been agreed with the aim of avoiding duplication of animal testing and at promoting alternative test methods.

A coalition of European environmental organizations reacted immediately to what they said was a "deal struck behind closed doors" saying, "If adopted at the plenary vote, the deal will allow many chemicals of very high concern - including many that cause cancer, birth defects and other serious illnesses - to stay on the market and be used in consumer products even when safer alternatives are available. The groups call on Parliamentarians to strengthen REACH when they vote on the proposal in mid-December." They said negotiators accepted the deal based on "cosmetic changes" to the Council’s "flawed approach of ‘adequate control’" which they said is being championed by the chemicals industry and is founded on the claim that exposure to hazardous chemicals can be controlled so as to pose no danger to human health and the environment.

Access a release from the European Parliament (click here). Access the EurActive website for the latest reports and links to background and documents (click here). Access the European Commission REACH website for additional information (click here). Access the European Chemical Industry Council's REACH website (click here). Access a release from European environmental groups (click here). Access the Greenpeace European Unit REACH website (click here). Access the WIMS-EcoBizPort REACH links for additional information (click here). [*Toxics]