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Last Updated: Friday, 1 June 2007, 00:36 GMT 01:36 UK
New EU chemical law takes effect
By Alix Kroeger
BBC News, Brussels

Chemicals in beakers
The new requirements will be phased in over the next 11 years
Legislation requiring the safety testing of tens of thousands of chemicals - many in everyday use - has come into effect across the EU.

For the first time, it will be up to industry, rather than the regulatory authorities, to prove that chemicals are safe.

But environmental and consumer groups say the new rules do not go far enough.

About 30,000 chemicals are covered by the new rules - from paints to flame retardants to fragrances in shampoos.

Safety data will be required for all of them.

It does not damage European industry; on the contrary, others will follow
Guenter Verheugen
EU Commission vice president

The most hazardous - chemicals which can cause cancer or changes in genetic material - will have to undergo further testing.

If there is a safer alternative, producers will have to substitute it, unless there is a strong case for continuing to use the existing chemical.

But environmental campaigners say the new rules, known as REACH, leave too many loopholes.

The new requirements will be phased in between now and 2018.

The most hazardous chemicals will have to be registered first, along with those used in the largest quantities.

Producers are already working together to share the cost of testing, which the European Commission reckons at up to 10bn euros (7bn) spread over 11 years.

But it says that is offset by the benefits to health and the environment: 97bn euros (66bn) saved in health costs over the next three decades.

Campaigner calls for even tighter regulations

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