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Europe has hazardous chemicals in its sights

Published on 2007-06-07. Author : SpecialChem

New EU rules for the chemical industry - the REACH package - are set to improve our health and protect the environment. Obliging companies to register and provide information on the chemicals they use should enable public authorities to identify their properties more quickly and accurately. Particularly severe on toxic products, the new rules will encourage the European chemicals industry to develop new substances that are less harmful for people and the environment. As a result, the sector itself should also gain a lead in innovative and sustainable technologies.

From today, companies that produce or import more than one tonne of any chemical in a given a year will have to register that substance in a central database at the new European chemicals agency. This body will then pass on the information to other firms downstream in the supply chain, as well as providing a range of computer tools to help businesses comply with the new rules.

The REACH package was hotly disputed both by civil society bodies and industry during its examination by MEPs and national ministers. The scope of the change it instigates sharply divided manufacturers and ecologists. While industry bemoaned the complexity and costs of the new system, environmentalists wanted to go further down the road to a greener chemicals industry, introducing production and consumption methods that are safer for human health and the environment. The EU finally passed the rules in December 2006 after all sides agreed on a compromise.

The new rules require 30 000 chemicals to be registered. From now on, the burden of proving these substances are safe will be on industry, encouraging it to progressively replace potentially hazardous chemicals with safer alternatives and thereby stimulating research and innovation.

Source: EUROPA


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