The European Parliament has adopted its controversial REACH environmental protection law, designed to register, evaluate, and check thousands of chemicals in daily use. It needed two years of hard bargaining and a maze of compromise and co-operation to get the law agreed, although critics say the resulting document is a watered-down mess that will do little to improve European health or safety.
Indeed, say other critics, it will just add new costs to industry and disencourage risk taking , making Europe’s chemicals sector, the world’s largest, uncompetitive. It was a triumph for one of the law’s co-sponsors Guido Sacconi, who had to grapply with conflicting interests to forge the compromise deal, but he is resigned to the criticism, and hails the law as a necessary first step.
The chemicals industry appears to have won significant concessions, notably on halving the list of products to be tested from 30,000 to 15,000 substances, but it is unclear if as a result the consumer has gained better protection. Most dangerous compounds may continue to be used unchecked as low volume trades in chemicals are unaffected by the new rules. Protestors claim this and other loopholes will rob the law of any effective powers to clean up our dangerous environment.