European Union ministers have approved a landmark bill which aims to protect the public from toxic chemicals. The deal was clinched in spite of opposition from industry and cries from activists that the measure was too weak. The law requires properties of roughly 30,000 chemicals produced or imported into the EU to be registered with a central agency. Those of highest concern, like carcinogens, would require testing and authorisation to be used.
Ministers supported a compromise on Registration, Evaluation and Authorisation of Chemicals (REACH) by a qualified majority. About one month ago the European Parliament backed a version of its own. Gunther Verheugen, Europe’s commissioner for industry, gave the view of the European executive: “It is an additional burden for the European companies; they have to deliver information on whether substitution is possible or not, but in the over-all balance the commission finds that the solution is acceptable.”
The next step before REACH can become law will be for the European Parliament and the member states to resolve their versions’ differences. The ministers’ version does not include mandatory substitution of dangerous chemicals.