REACH to deliver 3.5 billion euros savings over 10 years
The findings of an eagerly-awaited study on the benefits of REACH for workers’ health were unveiled in the European Parliament on October 17. The study, done by the University of Sheffield, shows that REACH would help avoid 50,000 cases of occupational respiratory diseases and 40,000 cases of occupational skin diseases from exposure to dangerous chemicals in Europe each year.
That would add up to total average savings of 3.5 billion euros over 10 years for the EU-25. The savings would boost social security coffers through reduced sickness benefit payments, while workers will enjoy health-related quality of life gains, and employers in all sectors will avoid productivity losses from sickness absenteeism.
The event was hosted by Parliament’s lead rapporteur on REACH, Guido Sacconi, who said, "this important study gives a salutary reminder that while REACH may have a cost, benefits are also to be expected in terms of human health, especially that of workers, and that is one of the key aims of the reform".
Marc Sapir, Managing Director of the European Trade Union Confederation’s (ETUC) research institute which commissioned the study, stressed that the potential benefits depended very much on the information the REACH system produced both on the hazards of chemicals, and on how the risks related to their uses were managed.
Addressing the assembled MEPs and Council representatives, he added "REACH is a first-class tool for generating and transmitting useful data on chemicals, but it will not get us very far if we don’t ask producers for enough information".
The ETUC is calling on Parliament and Council to take into account the amendments it has put forward to optimise the cost-benefit ratio of REACH:
Additional basic toxicological information for the 20,000 substances between 1 and 10 tpa (acute toxicity test) ;
A chemical safety report for the 30,000 substances covered by REACH
The reintroduction of a duty of care for all chemicals;
Stricter application of the substitution principle in the authorization phase;
Mandatory compliance checks on a minimum number of registration dossiers. The REACH reform must be sufficiently exacting to enable sustainable development for the European chemical industry and help sustain a healthy labour market with a plentiful supply of good quality jobs. REACH is an opportunity that must not be missed to build a more socially responsible Europe.
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