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Draft legislation to regulate the chemical industry could save billions of pounds on health care and environmental clean ups, figures published in the Government's official consultation document, reveal today [1]. The potential savings dwarf the costs of implementing the legislation, cited as a major obstacle by the chemicals industry.

Friends of the Earth today welcomed the new figures published in a draft regulatory impact assessment, as part of the consultation document on the draft REACH (Registration, Evaluation and Authorisation of Chemicals) legislation. The proposed European laws, which have already been watered down following industry lobbying, will regulate some 30,000 chemicals that are currently in use with little or no controls.

The draft regulatory impact assessment estimates that REACH will directly cost UK industry around £515 million over 11 years [p 62]. This amounts to around 0.1% of the gross output of the chemicals industry (£49 billion per annum according to the Chemicals Industry Association). In contrast, occupationally related cancer deaths alone are evaluated at £3 - £12 billion per year. A reduction in cancer levels of only around 1% would match the costs of the new controls [p 69].

Friends of the Earth Safer Chemicals Campaigner Mary Taylor said:

"These figures clearly show that the health benefits of reform will vastly outweigh the expected costs. It is simply unacceptable to continue using dangerous chemicals in consumer products because industry objects to the cost. The chemicals industry should recognise the need to protect consumers and make sure it does so in the products it sells."

The environmental campaign group is calling for the current draft legislation to be strengthened, and wants the UK Government to push for:

  • The closure of a loophole that would permit the continued use of the most hazardous chemicals even when safer substitutes are available.
  • More emphasis on information to retailers and consumers, including the right to know about chemicals in products.
  • Better rules for imported products so that chemicals in these are subject to the same controls.


[1] See

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