REACH: Member States conclude agreement on a text that lacks ambition

Brussels, 13/12/2005

The ETUC welcomes the agreement reached on Tuesday at the extraordinary meeting of the Competitiveness Council because it sets Europe firmly on the road to an economy that takes greater account of the health and environmental impacts of the chemicals industry.

This text confirms the principle of reversing the burden of proof and placing it on the producers of the 30,000 substances covered by the measure. For workers, this means a decisive step forward, because from now on companies will have to demonstrate that these substances can be manufactured and used safely before they put them on the market,” said Joël Decaillon, ETUC Confederal Secretary responsible for the REACH dossier.

As with Kyoto, we are certainly talking about a text with moderate ambitions, but one which has the advantage of confronting economic and political actors with their responsibilities, and ensuring that, at last, human health and environmental safety are regarded as vital concerns for the economy,” he added.

The ETUC, however, regrets the new concessions granted to the chemicals industry. In the agreement adopted by the Competitiveness Council, the principle of obligatory substitution - which had survived the 1st reading in the European Parliament - is lost. For the ETUC, this represents a significant retreat compared to REACH's initial ambitions in terms of workers' health protection. Without a strong element of compulsion, the number of companies undertaking to abandon the production of dangerous substances in favour of safer alternatives runs the risk of being very limited.

The demands in the text regarding tests on substances produced in low volumes had already been considerably reduced during its passage through the European Parliament. A recent study for the ETUC, carried out by the University of Sheffield, had anyway concluded that, in the absence of basic toxicological data, REACH will not have the anticipated impact on workers' health.

The ETUC hopes that the second reading in the European Parliament will offer the opportunity to strengthen the draft in order to achieve a better balance between costs and benefits.