U.S. Leads Effort To Shorten EU's REACH

By year's end, the European Union is expected to adopt REACH, a proposal that would "require manufacturers to test industrial chemicals used in the manufacturing process to gather health and safety data." REACH stands for "Registration, Evaluation and Authorization of Chemicals." The bill "has prompted a U.S.-led coalition of 13 countries to step up lobbying efforts to make the final measure more amenable to industry," reports the Wall Street Journal. "The diplomatic missions of the U.S., Japan, Australia, India and other countries issues a length joint critique of the proposed law this month, saying certain provisions would disrupt international trade without offering clear environmental benefits." C. Boyden Gray, the U.S. ambassador to the EU and former chair of FreedomWorks and Citizens for a Sound Economy, said European policymakers "never did a proper impact assessment to evaluate the risk-versus-benefit status of this legislation."


For those (like me) who didn't know what REACH is all about, see:

An excerpt:

"Under REACH, certain classes of industrial chemicals regarded as of Very High Concern would have to be registered, evaluated and authorized before they could be marketed. They are:

* carcinogens, mutagens, and reprotoxins which are either known or very likely to be toxic to humans

* chemicals that can become widely disseminated in the environment, and which are persistent, bioaccumulative, and toxic, particularly persistent organic pollutants

* chemicals that are very persistent and very bioaccumulative in humans and wildlife for which toxicity data are still unavailable

Err ... mandatory registration and authorisation of chemicals that are carcinogenic, toxic, and bioaccumulative? What exactly is the problem?

Of course that part of our society which is known as "chemical industry" would be better off without any regulation of any kind.

The question is of course: how about other segments of society, notably consumers? After all ... our doctor's bills don't show up on their balance sheet, and neither does removal of e.g. pesticides from our groundwater. Both show up for consumers though: in our medical insurance or in our taxes. The US are a funny place ... on the one hand we have one of the strictest regimes in the world for medicines (the FDA regulations are famous) ... and one of the most permissive for all other chemicals. Does that make sense? I don't think so.

And funnily enough ... pleas for careful consideration of cost-benefit tradeoffs (such as from Boyden Gray) only seem to be heard from this administration when it's about to block, water down, delay, or derail legislation aimed at protection of consumers or the environment.

Why not just reverse the rhethoric and call it "a challenge", or even "an opportunity to innovate"? That would fit the issues just as well.

And I'm deeply sceptical of all those doomsayers who tell us we can't possibly afford strict environmental legislation because: it will undermine our industry's competitive position compared to China's / it's not cost-effective / it stifles innovation / it's a senseless treehuggers delusion / the market should sort it all out (cross out whichever isn't applicable).

For my part I hope that the EU goes straight ahead with what they're doing ... and we'll see that the US, Japan, China, and whoever will follow. Grumbling perhaps, but follow they will. That way they get the best of both worlds: they get good protective legislation, and and they get to bitch at "anti-business" measures at the same time.