Politics

Within our REACH?

Article published on Feb. 20, 2007
Article published on Feb. 20, 2007
The EU's chemical regulation - at a glance

'Registration, Evaluation and Authorisation of CHemicals' (REACH) will be monitored from one central point, the newly created European Chemicals Agency (ECHA) in Helsinki. It's described as the 'public face' of the new REACH system

REACH was formally adopted on December 13 2006, and is due to take effect on June 1st. It's a regulation - not a directive - replacing forty pieces of existing legislation

The issue was courting controversy long before anything was finalised last Christmas. Greenpeace accused EU Commission President José Manuel Barroso and European Industry Commissioner Günter Verheugen of 'bending over backwards to put dirty industry profits before public interest'

The Greenpeace campaign showed how hazardous chemicals exist in a wide range of products, including cosmetics, DVD-players and shower curtains. Not forgetting in the clothes we wear everyday: here, Greenpeace volunteers defiantly put warning stickers on Disney childrens pyjamas

30, 000 chemicals in everyday household products will be regulated through REACH. But the chemical safety bill has its loophole; it legalises a formal filing of paperwork, namely supplying data on actual chemicals. It doesn't stop hazardous chemicals from being used, or necessarily safeguard European public health the best it could. 'Certain common chemicals such as PVC, plasticisers, flame retardants and others have been linked to the serious long term decline in human fertility over the last few decades' (Greenpeace report) - and this merely in the textile sector

In Madrid last summer, designers lobbied the issue in a catwalk show hosted by an array of MEPs: the Dane Dan Jorgensen, Italian Umberto Guidoni, Belgian Frederique Ries and Italian MEP and leader of the European Greens, Monica Frassoni

(Photos: courtesy of Greenpeace and Helsinki City Information Office)