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European laws are not effective to check the use of dangerous chemicals, says a European Commission report

 
Published: Thursday 31 December 1998

LAWS in Europe are failing to protect the public and the environment from potentially hazardous chemicals, according to the European Commission (EC). An EC report on the impact of chemicals' legislation has found that laws brought in as recently as 1994 are proving inadequate. There is a need to 'implement and enforce them more rigorously and adequately', said the EC. The report said there was evidence that neither European governments nor the industry were committed to carrying out costly, lengthy assessments of potentially hazardous chemicals as required by law. Individual governments and EC authorities should both dedicate more money to this process, the report said.

EC laws introduced in 1967, 1977 and 1988 mandate industries to identify the hazardous properties of chemicals before introducing them in the market. In 1994, the EC also decided that chemicals already in circulation should be subjected to retrospective assessments. But of the 110 chemicals earmarked for immediate evaluation since 1994, only four will have been fully assessed by the end of this year, the EC said.

The report says that companies are not adhering to the laws requiring them to classify substances into categories such as 'toxic', 'carcinogenic' and 'flammable' before packaging and labeling them. Moreover, there is no adequate follow-up of classified substances, even though the effects of such chemicals are a source of major concern. The EC said it would raise the issue with governments, industry, consumers and environmental groups next year before proposing changes to the existing legislation.

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