Bush Administration Presses European Union To Weaken Proposed Chemical Regulations, Lest They Affect U.S.
Last year the Bush Administration encouraged American chemical companies to lobby against European efforts to strengthen the regulation of thousands of chemicals contained in household, industrial and personal products. When the chemical industry was slow to respond, Administration officials took it upon themselves to launch "an unusually aggressive campaign" to pressure the European Union (EU) into watering down its comprehensive reform efforts. 
Documents uncovered by the Environmental Health Fund, using the Freedom of Information Act, showed the U.S. State and Commerce departments, Environmental Protection Agency and office of the U.S. Trade Representative, formed an alliance with Dow Chemical Co. and others to ward off regulations they feared would raise the cost of doing business in Europe. 
Those tactics could backfire. Sen. Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ), along with several other influential Democrats, is drafting a proposal to rewrite American chemical regulations to more closely resemble the EU's proposed reforms.  The EU proposal, known as REACH, would require manufacturers to test chemicals for health and environmental impacts before putting them on the market. It relies on the precautionary principle -- that people should not be exposed to problematic chemicals if safer substitutes are available.
In contrast, US chemical regulatory policy requires no testing for more than 95 percent of the chemicals currently in commerce.  Studies show that, as a result, Americans carry a "body burden" of more than 100 chemicals commonly used in products such as Teflon pans, cosmetics, and flame retardants used in fabrics and electronic goods. 
Aides for several Congressional Democrats say it is likely a bill will be introduced this year modeled after REACH.  Observers say the proposed legislation faces an uphill battle.
 "US Opposes EU Effort to Test Chemicals for Health Hazards," Wall Street Journal, Sept. 9, 2003.
 "Democrats Eye Revisions to Toxics Law Based on Draft European Chemical Policy," Inside EPA, Nov. 10, 2003; and "Senators Seek Investigation of TSCA Shortfalls for Possible Legislative Overhaul," Chemical Policy Alert, Jan. 8, 2004.
 "US Intervention in EU Chemical Policy," Environmental Health Fund, Sept. 2003.
 "Body Burden," Environmental Working Group.
 Inside EPA.
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