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Public Radio's Environmental News Magazine (follow us on Google News)

REACHing for Regs

Air Date: Week of

A new European law called REACH goes into effect requiring chemical companies to submit data for 30,000 chemicals, proving their safety. But will the U.S. follow?


GELLERMAN: Well, concerns in Europe about chemicals have led to a new law that just went into effect there. It’s called REACH --- short for: Registration, evaluation, authorization and restriction of chemicals. And the European Union law is certainly far-reaching and controversial. For the first time, makers of more than 30 thousand chemicals must test and prove their substances, and the products they’re used in, are safe for people and the environment. The law also applies to US companies that export chemicals to the EU. The American Chemistry Council –which represents US manufacturers-- opposed the 800 page long regulation charging it was overly complex and costly. But Steve Russell of the Chemistry Council says the law is the law.

RUSSELL: At the moment US companies are working very hard to make sure they’re prepared to comply with REACH. We think the jury is still out on whether it will deliver its anticipated benefits, at least in the way that its proponents anticipate.

GELLERMAN: Proponents here say we should have something like REACH, too, because current U.S. chemical regulations are largely voluntary. Still, Joel Tickner, a professor of environmental health at University of Massachusetts- Lowell, thinks the European law will change the way American companies do business in the U.S.

TICKNER: I think it will have a positive effect ultimately. It’s going to force companies to start thinking about how to design safer chemicals, and to think about the toxicity of chemicals that have essentially been allowed to be used for the past 40 years without any regulation.

GELLERMAN: The US exports 14 billion dollars of chemicals to Europe each year complying with the new EU law is estimated to cost 14 million dollars annually.

MUSIC: Lullaby Baxter “Jet-Pack” from ‘Garden Cities of To-morrow’ (Boompa - 2006)



European Union's website for its new regulatory law REACH

American Chemistry Council health page


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