12 Nov 2002
(Brussels, 12/11/2002) Environmental, public health, and labour groups in the U.S. joined together today to denounce their governments efforts to derail proposed reforms underway in the EU. In a letter to President George W. Bush, more than 50 organisations applauded EU efforts to protect against hazardous chemicals and countered Bush Administration claims that the legislation would be bad for US business.
This letter is evidence of broad grassroots support in the US for government policies that protect people, wildlife, and ecosystems from chemical contamination, said Michael Warhurst, WWFs Senior EU Toxics Programme Officer. Instead of lobbying to slow environmental progress in Europe, the US should take some lessons from overseas and begin to tackle this global threat.
The European Commission has proposed a new chemicals policy called REACH (Registration, Evaluation and Authorisation of Chemicals) to address the large gaps in public health and environmental protections against chemicals. The proposals would shift the burden of proof on industry by requiring adequate scientific data as a precondition for selling chemicals - and products - and includes a mechanism for systematically eliminating the most hazardous chemicals in favour of safer alternatives.
Echoing the position of the chemical industry, the Bush Administration has disseminated documents critical of the EU reform proposals, claiming that cost of increased scrutiny would burden US businesses and hinder competitiveness. The public interest groups maintain that the cost of reforms is minuscule compared to billions spent on health care, pollution control, and clean-up from chemical contamination.
"The European chemical industry would have us believe that the new EU chemicals management REACH harms their competitiveness, while the US government argues that it would harm THEIR competitiveness. There is something obviously wrong. More likely is that EUs chemicals policy reform will create new markets for companies that employ cleaner processes to create cleaner products", said John Hontelez, Secretary General of the European Environmental Bureau.
It is clear that the US government is not acting in the general public-interest , but is narrowly focussing on the self-interests of its chemical industry , said Mary Taylor from Friends of the Earth. It is heartening that these diverse organisations in the States stand ready to fight for the EU reforms. From labour unions to childrens health advocates to conservation organisations, these groups represent millions of Americans who demand protection from chemical contamination.
Friends of the Earth
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