Parliament votes to phase out hazardous chemicals but allows huge knowledge gaps on safety

17 November 2005

Strasbourg, 17 November 2005 - Environmental, women's, health and consumer organisations recognised the important step taken by Parliament today towards replacing hazardous chemicals with safer alternatives but regretted that MEPs exempted thousands of chemicals from the need to provide any health and safety information.The European Parliament supported the obligation to replace hazardous chemicals with safer alternatives when these are available (the 'substitution principle'), sending a strong message to ministers of national governments who will next make a decision on REACH. This requirement is essential to end the build-up of harmful chemicals in our bodies and the environment.

The groups warned, however, that the failure to provide basic safety information about chemicals will make it impossible to systematically identify and replace the most hazardous substances, which is the one of the principle aims of REACH. At present we lack basic data on the environmental and health impacts of 90% of substances.

The groups therefore condemned the decision to severely weaken crucial safety testing requirements for all chemicals covered by REACH.

A REACH adopted on this basis will not deliver the health and environment protection the public needs, as it would leave thousands of chemicals without basic toxicity data and so would hamper the identification of harmful chemicals, such as hormone disrupters.

The Council of Ministers has the opportunity to strengthen the legislation - when Competitiveness Ministers meet in Brussels - by ensuring that the legislation will help both identify and replace hazardous chemicals covered by REACH. This is a unique opportunity to protect women, men and children and their environment and it should not be sacrificed for the short-sighted interests of the large chemicals producers.