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Paul Kiesel
Paul Kiesel
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European Parliament Approves Tough Chemical Law

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EU law will limit use of toxic chemicals. U.S. chemical companies will have to comply with new EU law.

The European Union passed an important law, this week, designed to protect workers and consumers from the dangers of exposure to toxic chemicals. The new law will control 30,000 toxic chemicals and will result in the ban of approximately 1,500 of the most hazardous substances. The legislation is tougher and more far reaching than any U.S. laws and was strongly opposed by the U.S. chemical industry and the Bush administration.

The law called “REACH” is intended to force industries to regulate chemicals, supply health information, and replace the most hazardous ones with healthier alternatives. The law creates a central regulatory agency based in Helsinki, Finland. The provisions of the law become effective in June and are phased in over 11 years.

European Parliament President Joseph Borrell of Spain said the legislation “offers EU citizens true protection against the multitude of toxic substances in everyday life in Europe.”

Many toxic chemicals are used by U.S. industry and are present in household products where unsuspecting consumers receive exposures to harmful levels of chemicals. Many toxic chemicals have been found in humans and animals all over the world. U.S. manufacturers with products containing these chemicals will now have to make changes in order to remain competitive in the international marketplace. This in turn will serve to benefit Americans even if U.S. environmental laws are not as stringent as those in Europe.

“When one in three people contract cancer in their lifetime, we need to stop using known and suspected cancer-causing chemicals in commerce. The same goes for chemicals that are now accumulating in our children’s bodies”, said Bev Thorpe, director of Clean Production Action, an international group advocating green chemistry.

The new European law should have an important impact on helping reduce human exposure to toxic chemicals.