A new Finland-based European agency called Reach begins work on Friday to enforce wide-ranging rules to control the use of toxic chemicals. Reach has been described as the most important piece of EU legislation for 20 years. The law is designed to stimulate innovation and make firms prove the safety of thousands of chemicals they use in products from cars to clothes.
It means from now on the onus will switch from public authorities to business to test chemicals and show a proper understanding of their effect on health or the environment.
But critics say the law still allows poisonous chemicals to be used in consumer products instead of safer alternatives if manufacturers can prove they have been subject to “adequate” control.