The toxic twins are moving!

Feature story - 9 November, 2005
A removal team has arrived at the European Commission to move two senior commissioners into new jobs with their best friends in dirty industry. Given the determined efforts of EU Commission President José Manuel Barroso and Industry Commissioner Günter Verheugen to put polluting industry before public interests we think they would be better employed elsewhere.

Some politicians in Europe are bending over backwards to put dirty industry profits before public interest.

Greenpeace activists dressed as a removal team, complete with EuropeanCommission Clean Up Co. overalls arrived to move Barroso and Verheugenout of the Commission building and across town to their favouritelobbying locations. Moving office leaflets where distributed to EUstaff to explain that Mr Barroso would be moving to take up a job withthe CEFIC - the European chemicals industry association thathas spent millions on lobbying against stronger chemical law. MrVerheugen will be moving to German chemical giant BASF, the leadingcompany bankrolling the back room trashing of proposals for stronger chemical law. Bothpoliticians have traded public interest in their attempts to water downthe proposed EU chemicals policy (REACH).

Why exactly should they move?

One of our removal team - Nadia Haiama of the Greenpeace European Unitexplains: "Children are being born with a cocktail of hazardouschemicals in their bloodstream and Mr Barroso and Mr Verheugen aresupporting companies that want to go on producing these substances. Itis not surprising that the chemicals industry fights for the right topollute with impunity, but when the European Commission defends thatposition, something is wrong. If Mr Barroso and Mr Verheugen intend toput chemicals industry profits before the public interest, they shouldmove. We've come to help them relocate to where their heart seems tobe."

Fix required - but trashing in progress

Current chemicals legislation is failing to protect our health. Humansand the environment are exposed to a wide range of potentially harmfulmanmade chemicals. Hazardous chemicals have been repeatedly found inthe environment and in human bodies, including foetuses, and representa threat for all sections of society, from workers to children. Formost chemicals on the market there exists no or insufficientinformation to assess their effects on human health or the environment.

In Europe there is an attempt to fix this with the new REACH law butalmost from the moment it was suggested it has been under fire fromvested interests who profit from pollution. The toxic twins, Barrosoand Verheugen, are attempting to drive the final nail in the coffin ofthealready weakened EU chemicals reform, being cheered on by their dirtyindustry friends. Instead of defending the public interest, theiractions are becoming a threat to our health and environment.

If successful, the industry-led sabotage of REACH supported by Messrs Barroso and Verheugen would:

  • Allow 20,000 chemicals onto the market without basic health and safety data;
  • Let health and safety information on chemicals fall below internationally recognised minimum requirements;
  • Deprive chemical users and retailers of information on hazardous chemicals contaminating their supply chain;
  • Give industry the right to use hazardous chemicals even when safer substitutes exist.

Medical, scientific, trade union andenvironmental experts all support a strong chemical law. Mr Barroso andMr Verheugen appear to prefer the arguments of the chemicals industry.

Are shortsighted business interests more compelling than the health ofmillions of citizens and future generations? We don't think so.

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