13 July 2005 15:14 [Source: ICIS news]
LONDON (CNI)--European environmental organisations on Wednesday welcomed introduction in the US of legislation that mirrors the European Union’s (EU’s) proposed new chemicals policy Reach (registration, evaluation and authorisation of chemicals).
The European Environmental Bureau (EEB), which claims to be Europe's largest federation of environmental citizens' organisations, said the Child Safe Chemicals Act (CSCA) initiative led by Senator Frank Lautenberg (Republican-New Jersey) accompanies a report due for release today from Congress agency GAO (Government Accountability Office) "which shows the striking ineffectiveness of the 29-year old US system TSCA (Toxic Substances Control Act)”. The Toxic Substances Control Act is the cornerstone of chemicals control in the US.
Introduction of the CSCA “shows that the political will to move forward with chemicals policy is present on both sides of the Atlantic despite the anti-Reach campaign of the Bush administration", Mecki Naschke, EEB's chemicals policy officer said. "The Lautenberg Bill marks the beginning of a serious dialogue and action in the US with the aim to stop exposure to harmful chemicals by 2020 in line with the Johannesburg Summit goal to achieve a sound management of chemicals by 2020," she added.
"Most Americans believe their government is making sure that chemicals used in the market place are safe. Unfortunately, that simply isn't true," Senator Lautenberg will say when presenting his bill. "Today, chemicals are being used to make baby bottles, food packaging and other products that have never been fully evaluated for their health effects on children-and some of these chemicals are turning up in our blood worldwide,” he will go on to say.
The EEB is highlighting the main elements of the US proposal. It includes a full right-to-know about health effects of chemicals on workers and the public, which, it said, is weaker in Reach. A 'no-data-no-market' principle also forms the basis of Reach.
The CSCA includes a boarder substitution principle that promotes the use and development of safer alternatives. Reach “is still extremely weak in this respect,” the EEB suggested.
An amended TSCA would provide a level playing field for new and existing chemicals as will Reach, it said.
"Just like Reach, the CSCA places the burden of proof on industry,” Naschke added, “which has to prove the safety of its chemicals instead of asking the taxpayer to sponsor governments to investigate the health and environmental risks of substances."
In an open letter today to the European Commission (EC), the EEB and other environmental organisations claimed that despite 30 years of environmental policies "there are huge challenges (in the European Union) still ahead which need to be addressed without delay".
One week before a crucial debate in the College of European Commissioners, the 10 organisations have called on all Commissioners not to backtrack on environmental policies.
Commission president Manuel Barroso is said to have called for the halting of environmental policy proposals, the organisations claimed. They insisted that the EC publishes seven thematic strategies for the environment starting this month with strategies on air quality and the marine environment.
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