1 European Parliament votes for major advance towards safer chemicals

The European Parliament has today voted in favour of a comprehensive new approach to the way we deal with chemicals. REACH (registration, evaluation and authorisation of chemicals) sets in place measures for industry to provide evidence of the safety of chemicals and will make sure that everyone in the supply chain will know how to use them safely. The final law also contains strong drivers to substitute the most hazardous substances, so that where there is a suitable safer alternative, REACH will make sure that industry uses it.

Jeff Rooker, Minister of Sustainable Farming and Food, said: "The UK has always been a strong supporter of REACH. REACH will provide information about the thousands of substances that are used in products we have come to depend on. It will give us the tools we need to protect human health and the environment. And the new rules for substituting hazardous chemicals when there are safer alternatives mean that we can look forward to getting rid of substances that we are all rightly concerned about.

"REACH contains some good news for business - it removes 40 existing pieces of law, it will encourage innovation, and make the market work better.

"Bringing member states together to a common agreement on REACH was a major success of the UK Presidency of the EU last year, so I now welcome this final agreement which has in turn been a major success for the Finnish Presidency."

The European Parliament vote follows agreement between the Parliament, the Council of Ministers and the European Commission about what changes to make to the draft law. The most significant changes will:

· strengthen substitution of hazardous chemicals so that it will be compulsory, not voluntary, to stop using them when there are suitable safer alternatives;
· further reduce the need for testing on animals; and
· make more information available throughout the supply chain and to consumers on chemicals and their uses in manufactured goods.
· Safer chemicals on a European wide basis is a prize that could only be obtained through the existence of and Britain's membership of the European Union.

The Council of Ministers will formally endorse the agreement on 18 December and REACH will come into force on 1 June 2007.

A helpline has been set up by the UK Competent Body, the Health and Safety Executive, for businesses to obtain advice on how this will affect them and what they need to do to comply. They can be contacted on 0845 4089575 or ukreachca@hse.gsi.gov.uk

Or visit www.hse.gov.uk/press/2006/e06101.htm


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