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Europe: landmark law on toxic chemicals voted in

Half protected from toxic chemicals

Strasbourg, France — European politicians have voted on a landmark law to better regulate toxic chemicals. There was good news that the law will force the replacement of toxic chemicals with safer alternatives but pressure from polluting industry ensured many thousands of chemicals will not be tested.

The vote is the latest round in the progress of the new European legislation called REACH which was originally intended to replace current ineffective laws that are failing to protect us from toxic pollution. But almost from the moment it was suggested it has been under fire from vested interests who profit from pollution.

Members of the European Parliament (MEPs) resisted industry pressure when they supported replacing hazardous chemicals with safer alternatives. In the past month concerned citizens have sent almost 15,000 emails and photos to MEPs demanding protection from chemical pollution. But industry lobbying succeeded in convincing MEPs to exempt thousands of chemicals from the need to provide any health and safety information.

Currently about 90 percent of the thousands of chemicals in daily use have no or insufficient health and safety data. If the law fails to require basic safety information about chemicals it will make it impossible to systematically identify and replace the most hazardous substances which is the one of the principle aims of REACH.

Round one

The road from proposal to law for any European legislation is long and winding and REACH has taken longer than most and still has a few rounds left to go. Intense industry lobbying has helped delay and weaken the proposal and it will next be discussed by national governments. Hopefully national governments will stand up for their people and strengthen the proposal rather than weaken it further in favour of polluting industry pressure.

We'll be campaigning hard to pressure the national governments to take decisive action on toxic pollution and not cave into pressure coming from the German government that is trying to wreak the proposal to favour its large chemical industry lobby. Recently we have be highlighting the top Brussels politicians who are doing the bidding of polluting chemical industry.

Rest of the world?

While the intricacies of European law making can seem somewhat mundane and remote, this proposed law has far reaching consequences. As the world's largest market for chemicals new law in Europe will set a global standard for the regulation of chemicals. The chemical industry knows that this could cut their polluting practices and have spent millions lobbying against it.

This is a unique opportunity to protect us and the environment and it should not be sacrificed for the short-sighted interests of the large chemicals producers.

© Scoop Media

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