European Chemicals Report Under Industry Fire

BRUSSELS, Belgium, August 30, 2001 (ENS) - Europe's chemical industry has made its first official response to hard line proposals for tougher EU chemicals policies by Swedish Green Member of the European Parliament Inger Schörling.

A delegation from industry association Cefic met with Schörling to present its concerns yesterday. Today it issued a public statement strongly condemning her recommendations.

Schorling

Swedish Green Member of the European Parliament Inger Schörling. (Photo courtesy Greens-European Free Alliance)
The European Parliament's rapporteur on the new EU chemicals policy, Schörling has added her voice to calls from governments and environmentalists for the European Commission to strengthen its plans for chemicals testing and control.

Schörling's report forms the first stage in development of the European Parliament's response to a white paper on future EU chemical policies issued this spring by the European Commission. Though sure to be amended by the committee and later the full parliament, many of her ideas are likely to remain.

Implementing it as written would create a "more costly, more bureaucratic and less effective system" of chemicals regulation, Cefic says in its rebuttal, with "serious damaging implications on the whole of European industry and society as a whole."

Though much of the radical content of the proposals could be toned down by the time the full parliament adopts its resolution on the new policy, some of the thinking may survive and influence eventual legislative proposals.

First, Schörling says, the proposed authorization procedure should be extended. This forms a key foundation of the new policy and would introduce a general ban on chemicals of "very high concern," with authorizations granted case-by-case only if industry can justify them.

The legislation should cover not only carcinogenic and persistent organic substances, Schörling says, but also weaker carcinogens, endocrine disrupters and sensitizers.

Four points have angered the industry. First, the report "focuses heavily" on health and environmental protection but "fails to acknowledge" the contribution manufactured chemicals make to this goal and "understates the importance" of striking a balance between the three pillars of sustainable development.

Second, further extending the scope of the Commission's proposed "Reach" authorization procedure for high concern chemicals would "overload" the system. Cefic claims that even under the proposals outlined in the Commission's white paper, the proposed EU central chemicals agency would have an average of just seven days to process authorization requests, compared to current timetables of two to three years.

The wider restrictions envisioned by Schörling could increase this burden 20-fold, the industry says.

Also troubling the industry is the suggestion that authorities be allowed to use "qualitative criteria" when weighing up the pros and cons of substances. It cautioned against a "disregard for the well established concept of basing ... decisions on science based risk assessment and socio-economic considerations."

In a further protest, it said the Schörling vision of substance policy based on higher company disclosure would compromise commercial confidence of new chemicals while adding little to environmental protection.

Chemicals policy review website: http://www.chemicalspolicyreview.org/

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