American firms conforming to E.U. chemical regs

Though the U.S. was once a global leader in environmental regulation, that is, to put it mildly, no longer true. Now, the real challenge for many U.S. companies is complying with the stringent standards that govern the European Union market — if they want to reach its 460 million consumers. Using a “better safe than sorry” model, the E.U. has instituted hundreds of bans on industrial compounds linked to cancer, reproductive problems, and other ill health effects. The newest piece of such legislation, set for evaluation by European Parliament this fall, would require companies to provide scientific data on some 30,000 chemical compounds, in many cases evaluating their effects on environmental and human health. The testing could cost industries up to $6.8 billion and might involve bans on thousands of chemicals if they can’t be proven safe. “In the E.U., if there is a risk with potentially irreversible impact, we don’t wait until the last piece of information,” said Rob Donkers, the E.U.’s environmental counselor in Washington, D.C.