Business Lobbies Criticize EU Chem Law

Claim law is going to be costly for businesses and needs a more “workable” approach.

Brussels, Belgium (AP) - European business lobbies Wednesday warned that the EU’s draft legislation controlling the use of chemicals will stifle competitiveness, lead to increased cost for the industry and burden companies with unnecessary bureaucracy.

The law, one of the most wide-ranging and complex ever drafted by the 25-nation EU, is designed to protect people from the adverse effects of chemicals found in everyday products.

Known by the acronym REACH, for Registration, Evaluation and Authorization of Chemicals, it puts the burden of proof on businesses to show that substances they put on the market are safe. It also foresees the registration of some 30,000 chemicals with a new European agency with powers to ban those deemed to present significant health threats.

Under the draft, manufacturers are required to substitute around 1,500 dangerous chemicals with safer alternatives if their use is economically viable. If no alternative exists, companies will have to submit a research plan to develop one.

“We have no doubt such a procedure will be extremely bureaucratic and expensive without any clear benefit to consumers,” said Philippe de Buck, secretary general of UNICE, a leading European business lobby group. “The objective of REACH could have been achieved with a more workable approach.”

The draft rules, which are expected to be approved by the European Parliament next week, have long been resisted by the EU’s 600 billion euros ($800 billion) a year chemicals industry.

Businesses have complained the law is too complicated, far-reaching and confusing. They have protested its scope, saying that substances that are adequately controlled and do not pose danger to the environment and human health still fall under the legislation.

“Everything we use in our daily lives is dependent on chemicals. REACH will apply to everything that has been invented in chemistry,” said Alain Perroy, head of the main European chemical lobby CEFIC.

The registration process for all of the 30,000 chemicals should be completed in 11 years. The first stage of the process aims to register substances that are produced in the largest quantities and the most harmful ones, such as carcinogen, mutagens and toxins affecting reproduction, within three years.