The European Commission's proposed a new EU regulatory framework for the Registration, Evaluation and Authorisation of Chemicals (REACH) could be particularly beneficial to the health of men and the children they father.
REACH aims to improve the protection of human health and the environment through the better and earlier identification of the properties of chemical substances. At the same time, innovative capability and competitiveness of the EU chemicals industry should be enhanced. The benefits of the REACH system will come gradually, as more and more substances are phased into REACH.
There is a growing body of scientific evidence linking men’s exposure to environmental toxins, such as cigarette smoke or herbicides, to reproductive health problems, and the health of their children according to scientists such as Cynthia Daniels author of Exposing Men: The Science and Politics of Male Reproduction. She says her interest developed because in the course of her work she 'came across quite a substantial body of scientific research that indicated that men's use of drugs and alcohol or men's exposure to toxic substances could also produce harm in the children that they fathered including increased rates of birth defects and increased rates of miscarriage.'
She was 'a little stunned by the fact that there was no public attention to this growing body of scientific evidence.'
The REACH proposal gives greater responsibility to industry to manage the risks from chemicals and to provide safety information on the substances. Manufacturers and importers will be required to gather information on the properties of their substances, which will help them manage them safely, and to register the information in a central database. A Chemicals Agency will act as the central point in the REACH system: it will run the databases necessary to operate the system, co-ordinate the in-depth evaluation of suspicious chemicals and run a public database in which consumers and professionals can find hazard information.
Following 2 years of negotiation on the Commission’s original proposal and following the European Parliament’s first reading opinion, the Council reached a Common Position in June.
The Commission welcomes and fully supports the Common Position and considers it well balanced and consistent with the Lisbon objectives on competitiveness and innovation while achieving a marked improvement in health and environment to the benefit of Europe’s citizens.
The Commission supports achieving final agreement on REACH at Second Reading and will do its utmost to facilitate agreement at that stage.
Final adoption of the proposal is expected by the end of 2006.