|BRUSSELS - European Parliament committees debating a major EU chemical regulation reform bill voted on Tuesday to reduce the safety data collection requirements for companies that produce low volumes of chemicals.|
The bill, known as REACH (registration, evaluation and authorisation of chemicals), is designed to protect people and the environment from adverse effects of substances found in a myriad of products from clothes to cars.
It is under consideration in the European Parliament and scheduled to go before the full body in November, but several committees are hammering out changes to the original proposal from the executive European Commission in the meantime.
The industry committee and the internal markets committee voted that producers of chemicals in volumes of 1 to 10 tonnes per year should have to provide less safety data than originally envisioned, helping to ease the burden on smaller firms.
"If substances would be affected in this area by the high registration costs, the likelihood that they will disappear in the market might be higher," said Thomas Jostmann, executive director of chemical lobbying group Cefic.
But environmentalists decried the vote, which would affect around 17,000 chemicals -- a majority of those covered by REACH.
"The amendments adopted today would fatally undermine the basic principle of REACH: to identify from full safety data which chemicals are hazardous and need to be phased out of our daily environment", said Karl Wagner, an official at environmental group WWF in a statement.
WWF and Greenpeace said the committees also passed amendments that would reduce the number of safety tests for higher-volume substances as well.
They called on the Parliament's environment committee, which has the most influence over this particular draft law, to overturn the changes when it holds its own vote in October.
Under REACH, chemical companies would have to register the properties of substances with a central EU database. Those of highest concern, such as carcinogens, would undergo a risk assessment and the most dangerous chemicals would require special authorisation.
The bill would have a broad effect on other industries such as metals and has raised concern from EU trade partners such as the United States and Australia about disruption of trade flows.
Story by Jeff Mason
REUTERS NEWS SERVICE