European Parliament passes major chemical registration and testing law

The European Parliament has passed the landmark Registration, Evaluation, and Authorization of Chemicals legislation, widely known to wonks as REACH. If approved by the national governments of the European Union, it will turn traditional regulation on its head, putting the burden of proof on manufacturers — rather than on individuals, groups, or governments — to show that many substances used in consumer products are safe. The “substitution principle” was also approved, requiring companies to replace hazardous chemicals with safer ones wherever possible. Italian minister Guido Sacconi, a major REACH proponent, says the vote gives Europe the “strongest protection in the world” from harmful chemicals. But much to the dismay of greens, the parliament made a compromise with industry that may ultimately exempt about two-thirds of the original list of 30,000 chemicals from testing.