EU chemical regulation could save ?150 billion in environment and health costs


22 February 2006

Environmental activists have hailed estimates published by the European Commission that its forthcoming chemical regulatory framework could produce environmental benefits worth up to €95 billion (65 billion) over 25 years.

The figures, based on Europe's forthcoming registration, evaluation and authorisation of chemicals (Reach), come in addition to a commission estimate of €50 billion (34 billion) in health cost savings over 30 years projected when the Reach proposal was launched in 2003.

Authors of the study, The impact of Reach on the environment and human health, looked at three scenarios whose combined cost benefits total €95 billion: a comparison of known past health costs associated with four hazardous chemicals; an assessment of clean-up cost savings, and a calculation of potential savings in drinking water treatment costs.

A Greenpeace spokeswoman said: 'We already knew that the promise of savings under Reach was significant and far outweighed the expected costs to the chemicals industry.'

Referring to two key complaints about the watered-down version of Reach provisionally approved in late 2005, she added, 'Now [the saving] is further quantified, it is evident that much greater benefits would follow if the proposal were extended to include mandatory substitution of hazardous chemicals and if it obliged producers to supply full safety information on their substances.'

Meanwhile, lawyer-linguists continue to work on converting last year's votes into a coherent legislative text in all 20 EU official languages, including those of the smaller new member states including Maltaand the Baltic republics - a project that must be completed before the parliament can proceed to a second reading vote, perhaps ahead of EU summer recess. Arthur Rogers