E.U. Waters Down Chemical Safety Testing Plan

In a blow to advocates of environmental and human health, the European Union dramatically narrowed the scope of its plan to require safety testing for tens of thousands of chemicals. The move was motivated primarily by financial concerns, and the narrower plan is expected to save billions of dollars. But the timing — in the middle of a barrage of criticism of the measure by the Bush administration and the chemical industry — suggests that other factors were at work as well. Even the watered-down version of the plan is receiving a chilly reception from the White House and industry leaders, because it shifts the responsibility for safety testing from government regulators to manufacturers, and requires registration and authorization for thousands of chemicals that have been in use for some time. A final version of the draft is expected to be approved next week.