Testing Bayer

Feature story - 25 May, 2005
Bisphenol-A. Doesn't sound very interesting does it? In fact it's a widely used chemical in mobile phones, baby bottles and CD's. Unfortunately it's also a widespread toxic pollutant, even being found in people's blood. We are trying to get the producers and users of such toxic chemicals to change to safer alternatives.

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.

We have visited two of the major producers of toxic chemicals at theirplants in Belgium to pressure them to produce safer chemicals andsupport the inclusion of obligatory 'substitution principle' (EU speakfor swapping toxic chemicals for safer ones) in upcoming EuropeanChemical Law (REACH).

To highlight just how widespread toxic chemicals like Bisphenol-A arein the environment we sampled the blood of the Campaign Director ofGreenpeace in Belgium, Wendel Trio in front of the Bayer plant thatproduces Bisphenol-A. Previous tests had revealed his blood iscontaminated with toxic chemicals including Bisphenol-A.

"I didn't know that my blood contained chemicals which unknown to mecould affect some of my vital organs. It is the same for many membersof the public. I can only hope, that a group such as Bayer which isinvolved in health care would have the decency not to increase thispollution," said Wendel.

When we tried to give back the blood sample containing the very samechemical that Bayer produces it refused to accept it. Seems they arehappy to produce and sell these chemicals but not confront thepollution this causes?

Hazardous chemicals must urgently be replaced with substances thatpresent less or no danger, if we are to avoid a possible future publichealth problem.

"The proposal to make substitution of hazardous chemicals a part ofREACH is under serious attack by a large part of the chemical industry,which is trying to weaken the legislation," said Fawaz Al Bitar,Greenpeace Belgium toxics campaigner. "Groups such as Bayer and BASFshould stand up and support the obligatory substitution of problematicchemicals. We are keenly awaiting their commitment. Companies likeH&M, Sony, Sony Ericsson, which use chemicals in theirmanufacturing processes, have led the way by committing to stop usingcertain hazardous chemicals."

Groups such as Bayer and BASF are ignoring this innovative line. Thecurrent legislative proposal offers the double opportunity of setting alevel playing field for all industry and encouraging a climate ofinnovation.

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