Monday, June 16, 2008

NEW EUROPEAN RULES ON CHEMICALS WILL AFFECT AMERICAN COMPANIES

ENVIRONMENTAL NEWS NETWORK Europe this month rolled out new restrictions on makers of chemicals linked to cancer and other health problems, changes that are forcing U.S. industries to find new ways to produce a wide range of everyday products. The new laws in the European Union require companies to demonstrate that a chemical is safe before it enters commerce -- the opposite of policies in the United States, where regulators must prove that a chemical is harmful before it can be restricted or removed from the market. Manufacturers say that complying with the European laws will add billions to their costs, possibly driving up prices of some products.

The changes come at a time when consumers are increasingly worried about the long-term consequences of chemical exposure and are agitating for more aggressive regulation. In the United States, these pressures have spurred efforts in Congress and some state legislatures to pass laws that would circumvent the laborious federal regulatory process.

Adamantly opposed by the U.S. chemical industry and the Bush administration, the E.U. laws will be phased in over the next decade. It is difficult to know exactly how the changes will affect products sold in the United States. But American manufacturers are already searching for safer alternatives to chemicals used to make thousands of consumer goods, from bike helmets to shower curtains.

The European Union's tough stance on chemical regulation is the latest area in which the Europeans are reshaping business practices with demands that American companies either comply or lose access to a market of 27 countries and nearly 500 million people.