Thu, Dec 14, 2006 - Page 1 News List

EU seeks global standard with toxic chemical law


Some dangerous chemicals will not be allowed on the market and about 30,000 substances used in everyday products will have to be registered in a central EU database under a landmark law approved yesterday.

The European Parliament in Strasbourg passed the legislation -- one of the most complex and far-reaching EU regulations ever -- in a second reading after years of haggling marked by intense lobbying by the multibillion-dollar European chemicals industry and by protests from environmentalists who sought more restraints on the industry.

The law, a compromise balancing health and environmental concerns against fears that excessive red tape would stifle business, puts the burden of proof on companies to show that industrial chemicals and substances used in everyday products ranging from detergents to toys are safe. It is likely to take effect in the middle of next year.

"It is a major step forward for public health, workers' safety and protection of the environment. In the end, we want to get rid of the most dangerous chemicals while boosting research and development in Europe," said Italian Socialist Guido Sacconi, who was charged with steering the legislation through the EU assembly.

Producers will have to register the properties of chemicals with an agency to be set up in Finland, which will have powers to ban those presenting major health threats. Companies will be required to gradually replace the most high-risk chemicals where safer alternatives exist. If no alternative exists, producers will have to submit a plan to develop one.

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