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Last Updated: Friday, 1 December 2006, 15:39 GMT
EU draws up toxic chemicals law
Chemicals in beakers
Industry and environmentalists have battled over the rules
The European Parliament and EU governments have struck a deal on wide-ranging legislation to control the use of toxic chemicals in industry.

The draft law, due to come into force next year, is designed to make firms prove the chemicals they use are safe.

The deal comes after drawn-out talks, with environmentalists wanting tough action and industry groups seeking to avoid laborious rules.

The rules affecting 30,000 chemicals still require EU assembly approval.

"We're trying to ensure that the chemical substances in the medium and long-term will be controlled and will be replaced when they are dangerous," said Socialist MEP Guido Sacconi.

The European assembly will vote on the deal on 13 December before member states formally accept the new rules, which should be phased in over time by 2018.

'Burden of proof'

A system for registration, evaluation and authorisation of chemicals (REACH) will demand that firms provide lists of the chemicals they use and list any possible risks.

A newly-established agency in Finland will oversee the way the firms assess the chemicals they use.

"The most fundamental thing of all is that it reverses the burden of proof. Manufacturers and importers have to demonstrate that products they put on the market are safe," said Chris Davies of the Liberal Democrats.

But the higher standards would also mean a significant rise in animal testing, he said.

The register will initially focus on the most toxic chemicals and those produced in largest quantity.

Manufacturers will have to come up with plans to replace the most hazardous chemicals, but they will not be banned outright as environmentalists had hoped.

While the EU said the deal improved the safety standard of chemicals, green lobbyists were angered by what they saw as the EU bowing to industry pressure.

"The European Parliament has finally sold out to the intense lobbying of the German chemical industry," said Carl Schlyter, a Green Member of the European Parliament.


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