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A chance for change

Background - April 6, 2006
A new legislative proposal in Europe, called REACH (Registration, Evaluation and Authorisation of Chemicals), could help to pave the way out of the current chemicals crisis by driving the development and use of safer alternatives. This law could provide a solution to lead the world closer to a toxics free future.

Sampling activists blood outside a Bayer chemical plant. Previous test showed that chemicals produced by companies like Bayer are in his blood. To highlight this issue we attempted to return the contaminated blood to Bayer because it includes types of chemicals that Bayer produces at the plant. It refused to accept the blood sample.

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Over 30,000 chemicals are currently produced in quantities overone tonne per year within the European Union. More chemicals enterEurope as additives or contaminants in chemical preparations orconsumer products. Others are generated as unintentional by-products ofmanufacturing or waste management processes and are released in wastestreams or distributed as contaminants in consumer products.

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Only a handful of these chemicals have been assessed for therisks they pose. Even where risks have been identified, littleeffective action has resulted.

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Many chemicals are still widely used even though they are known to be hazardous.

A proposal for a new European law currently being decided bygovernments and the European Parliament offers a real opportunity tobegin controlling the spread of chemicals. Europe is the world'slargest chemical producer, so what starts here could change howchemicals are regulated around the world.

The proposed legislation is called REACH (Registration, Evaluation andAuthorisation of Chemicals). It could help ensure that the mosthazardous chemicals currently used and produced are substituted withsafer alternatives. Substitution of hazardous chemicals is the only waythat we can reduce our exposure to chemicals in the home, as toxicadditives are contained in a multitude of consumer products. It is alsoimportant that the new legislation gives sufficient information aboutthe properties and possible hazards of the chemicals on the marketincluding the ones in imported products, and that the public know whatchemicals are in what products so that we can begin to take control ofour chemical exposure.

If agreed in a good form, the new EU law could trigger a phase out ofsome of the world's most dangerous chemicals. But the chemicalsindustry is fighting back and has mounted a strong lobby both insideEurope and globally to persuade the EU to weaken its proposal. The USadministration has joined forces with the powerful chemicals industry,and is threatening to take the EU to the World Trade Organisation onthe grounds that REACH damages US commercial interests.

We urgently need to tell EU Governments and parliamentarians:

  • To stand up to polluting chemical producers and put our health and environment first.
  • To make substitution of all hazardous chemicals mandatory wheresafer alternatives are available. If no suitable alternatives arecurrently available and its use is essential to society, a time limitshould be set for the continued use of a hazardous substance, toencourage the development of a safer replacement.
  • That industry must be obliged to provide sufficient informationabout the properties and hazards of chemicals they produce or importinto the EU. 
  • That we need a system to make industry accountable for the impact of their products, now and in the future.
  • That we have the right to know what's in the products we bring into our homes.
Help us to

persuade European politicians to vote forsafer chemicals

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