07 May 2003 17:14 [Source: ICIS news]
LONDON (CNI)--The European Commission's (EC) decision to extend the consultation period for its proposed chemicals registration and testing system (Reach) could delay the introduction of new legislation by at least a year, environmental pressure groups claimed Wednesday.
They said new regulations were now unlikely to get through the first reading in the European Parliament before European elections in 2004.
"The delay is a consequence of industry pressure to extend the Internet consultation (which starts today) from five to eight weeks," said Friends of the Earth (FoE). "This could mean a delay of at least a year to the completion of the regulations. The regulations have already been four years in discussion – during which time there have been increasing concerns about the accumulation of industrial chemicals in humans and the environment."
The FoE claimed that some 30 000 chemicals are currently used without adequate safety data on their environmental and health impacts.
It also argued that the EC failed today to endorse the original key principles of the regulation presented by Environment Commissioner Margot Wallstrom and Enterprise Commissioner Erkki Liikanen.
FoE and other environmental organisations welcomed the reforms outlined in a Commission white paper in February 2001, which they said also received the support of the European Union (EU) Parliament and Council. The reforms included an obligation on industry to provide safety data for chemicals sold and a new authorisation system for phasing out or limiting exposure to the worst chemicals, said FoE.
However, FoE and other green lobby groups including the European Environmental Bureau (EEB) said the Commission appears to have backed down on crucial components of the reform, including the obligation on industry to stop using the worst chemicals when safer alternatives are available, the principle of the public’s right to know, and the requirement to provide proper protection from chemicals in imported products.
FoE safer chemicals campaigner Mary Taylor said: "The Commission has caved in to industry lobbying. Today’s delay increases the opportunities to weaken the new law, despite the continuing risks from exposure to hazardous chemicals. The Commission should be protecting consumers and speeding up the regulation of chemicals, not slowing it down."
Stefan Scheuer from EEB said today that EC president Romano Prodi’s "lack of leadership on this issue is causing further delay – a delay which, according to the Commission’s own figures, will cause up to 4300 unnecessary cancer cases per year. It is Prodi’s role to lead the reform and to ensure that the wishes of society are reflected in the result - and not only short-term business self-interest.”
Michael Warhurst from WWF added: “It comes down to one question - do we want to phase out the chemicals that accumulate in wildlife and ourselves, and those that disrupt our hormones? I believe that the European public does - and the EC is failing to get moving on this crucial task.”
Jorgo Iwasaki-Riss from Greenpeace added: “The very fact that hazardous chemicals are found in common consumer products – televisions, perfumes, sportswear, cleaning and body products – only shows the degree to which poorly- or unregulated chemicals have permeated our society and environment. To protect public health and the environment, Europe needs legislation that will require industry to substitute such hazardous chemicals with safer alternatives.”
Full details of the EC’s new chemicals legislation proposals can be found at: http://europa.eu.int/comm/enterprise/chemicals/index.htm
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