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EU: To help to shelter the Environment from hazardous chemicals

Written By Gopal Krishna on Saturday, August 02, 2008 | 9:08 PM

Our Environment is contaminated by many dangerous chemicals. They are
in our rivers, countryside, cities and in the air. Persistent Organic
Pollutants, the most dangerous, accumulate in the environment and our
food and are believed to interfere with reproductive and immune
systems, imitate hormones and cause cancer.

1st of June 2008 was an important day for the New European Chemical
Testing Policy called REACH (Registration, Evaluation, Authorisation
& restriction of CHemicals). In Helsinki, Finland, the European
Chemicals Agency which manages the implementation of this legislation
started the process of pre-registration of existing substances.
Before 1981 in Europe chemicals were put on the market without being
adequately safety tested. REACH aims to classify the toxicity of
about 30,000 substances used in quantities of over 1 tonne a year but
still depends significantly on animal testing. When you consider the
technological advances that have been made in recent years and that
many animal tests have remained unchanged for over 60 years this may
not be good enough. As this will ultimately determine which chemicals
will be allowed to be used in Europe and which will not this will
make a profound difference to the number of hazardous chemicals in
our environment.

The European Commission has estimated that Reach will cost industry
between 2.8bn and 5.2bn euros over 11 years. This will be an
inefficient use of resources if reliance is on outdated animal
testing instead of making the most of new technological advances.
Many alternatives exist which are quicker, cheaper and more reliable
than animal tests. However, for these to be trusted and validated
takes investment and a commitment to make medical progress a
priority. REACH must make sure that all chemicals are tested with the
most accurate and trustworthy methods and new techniques must be
developed if only animal testing is available.

The criteria necessary to validate alternatives are strict and
comprehensive. Validated alternatives are legally trusted as suitable
replacements for animal tests. However, the European Commission's
list of approved methods does not include non-animal techniques that
were approved for scientific validity in 2007 by the European Centre
for the Validation of Alternative Methods ( ECVAM ). This is a delay
which has been criticised by the MEPs of the European parliament
because it will encourage companies to avoid using validated human
based alternatives and continue using animal tests instead. ECVAM
does important work but if they are to achieve what we all want - a
comprehensive system of scientific tests to accurately find and
eliminate all toxic chemicals from the environment - their efforts
must be supported and acknowledged.

Concerned citizens can contact their MEPs and ask them to support at
every opportunity the validation and approval of alternative methods
for all future testing of chemicals.

For UK Citizens, protecting ourselves from dangerous substances can
start in the home. It is well known from research that our homes are
contaminated with many hazardous substances. Some of these come from
traffic fumes and industrial pollution. Many more are present in
household products and safeguarding our health and environment
includes testing these with modern methods we can trust. Early Day
Motion 1215 asks the British Government to take measures to prevent
the testing of household products and their ingredients on animals.
For these chemicals testing will only be by validated non-animal
methods based on human biology. Ideally about 200 MP signatures are
needed for this to be influential.

Complete details on EDM 1215 including who has signed at
http://edmi.parliament.uk

For more information visit:-
http://www.europarl.europa.eu
http://ec.europa.eu/environment/
http://www.eceae.org

Tony Gallett
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