REACH impact assessment exposes industry scaremongering

Press release - 16 October, 2003
Environmental NGOs welcome the new figures about the cost of the proposed new chemicals policy (REACH) presented today by the Commission to the chemicals industry, member states and environmental NGOs. According to the impact assessment (1), chemicals producers will have to bear costs of 2.3 billion euro over 11 years. This represents 0.05% of the sector's annual turnover. These costs will be passed on to users and are expected to result in an overall cost to industry of 2.8-5.2 billion euro over 11 years.

These figures show that the chemicals industry has grossly overestimated the cost of REACH. In particular, they expose as scaremongering industry predictions of GDP and employment losses.

Regrettably, these findings have come too late to prevent the serious weakening of the REACH drafts over the summer. While the Commission recognises that "the health burden related to chemicals is considerable", it has failed to adequately quantify REACH's benefits to human health and the environment. A recent study estimates such benefits at up to 283 billion euro (2).

"The costs are peanuts for the chemicals sector," says John Hontelez, Secretary General of the European Environmental Bureau. "As well as confirming our own estimates, the impact assessment highlights the irresponsibility of those industry representatives and politicians who have tried to kill the reform in recent weeks and months."

"It is wise to improve the cost-effectiveness of EU laws, but it is wrong to place industry profits above benefits to consumers and workers," says Mary Taylor from Friends of the Earth. "The impact assessment shows that plans to delete essential safety data requirements for 20,000 chemicals used in clothes, shampoos and other consumer products would only save industry 0.5 billion euro. How can the Commission justify sacrificing so many benefits for so little profit?"

"In the light of these figures, the Commission should revive the policy's initial aims and stop giving in to industry and US pressure," says Jorgo Iwasaki Riss of Greenpeace. "The Commission should weigh up the relatively low costs and the great benefits of replacing hazardous chemicals, which can accumulate in our bodies and disrupt hormone systems. Wherever safer alternatives exist, industry should be obliged to use them."

Notes: 1 2 "The Social Cost of Chemicals – the costs and benefits of future chemicals regulation in Europe." By Prof. David Pearce and Phoebe Koundouri, WWF, May 2003.