UK may launch EU chemicals initiative

Government prepares chemicals strategy, considers EU initiative for 1998 presidency

An initiative to reform the EU's chemicals policy may be launched by the UK government during its presidency of the organisation in the first half of 1998, environment ministry officials have revealed. In recent visits to EU member countries as part of the preparations for the UK's presidency, junior environment minister Michael Meacher has been told by several governments that changes in EU chemicals policy are fairly high among their own priorities. The environment ministry is itself preparing a national chemicals strategy to be launched late next year, and criticisms of aspects of EU policy were widespread at a consultative meeting with stakeholders held yesterday. The EU has failed to complete risk assessments of any substance under its existing chemicals programme since its launch in 1993. A ministry official commented at the meeting that one way of accelerating the programme might be to involve industry more in the risk assessment process. This might be coupled with a reversal in the burden of proof for high-risk chemicals, which would be phased out after a few years unless the manufacturers were able to demonstrate convincingly that this should not be done.

Follow Up:
UK environment ministry, tel: +44 171 890 3000.

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