Sunday, December 07, 2003

"Reaching" for the U.S. Chemical Industry

The European Community’s “REACH” (Registration, Evaluation and Authorization of Chemicals) proposal, that will stop the practice of treating chemicals as innocent until proven guilty, is giving fits to the American chemical industry and the Bush administration. The U.S. is subtly threatening a trade war if American –made chemicals are banned in Europe.

Now Senator Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ) is considering a way to avoid a trade war – adopt REACH in the U.S. If the U.S. restricts its own chemicals, Europe can’t be accused of trade restrictions for banning the same chemicals. Sounds like a great solution, no?

No, says the U.S. chemical industry. In fact, contamination of the U.S. regulatory system by REACH is the chemical industry’s worst nightmare. Globalization is only OK if it lowers world health and environmental standards, not if it raises them. Silly Senator.

Lautenberg and those knowledgeable about the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) feel that the EPA does not have enough power under TSCA to ban hazardous chemicals. The U.S. Court of Appeals even overturned EPA’s attempt to ban asbestos, an indisputable carcinogen because EPA had failed to prove that asbestos posed an “unreasonable risk.”