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Toxic ingredients

Bush administration pressures Britain to oppose new laws limiting use of toxic chemicals in everyday products

Tuesday, November 21, 2006 by: Jessica Fraser
Tags: toxic ingredients, Bush administration, toxic products

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(NewsTarget) A leaked document shows that the British government recently switched positions to oppose a European Union law that would seek to control manufacturers' use of toxic chemicals that cause brain disorders in children, after pressure from the Bush administration.

According to The Independent online, the leaked document reveals that the British government caved to pressure from the Bush administration and successfully led opposition to the EU law that would have forced companies to swap poisonous chemicals for safe chemicals if they work just as well.

The proposed law comes after a study by American and Danish researchers found that more than 200 unregulated chemicals in everyday products could be the culprits in a "silent pandemic" of childhood brain disorders. The researchers' study, which appeared in The Lancet, suggested that the chemicals they identified -- which had been shown to be poisonous to the human brain -- were probably "the tip of a very large iceberg."

An October study by Dr. Andreas Kortenkamp, head of the Centre of Toxicology at the University of London's School of Pharmacy, found that routine exposure to "gender-bender" chemicals found in several everyday products could be behind recent increases in breast cancer.

Two months ago, a study conducted by WWF-UK found that toxic, hazardous chemicals are widespread in supermarket foods.

The proposed EU law would have attempted to regulate the 100,000 chemicals currently in use in Europe, of which 85 percent have little to no safety information. The law would have created an initiative -- the Registration, Evaluation and Authorization of Chemicals (REACH) -- to conduct safety tests on commercial chemicals and weed out the most dangerous ones.

Though the British government initially supported REACH -- as nearly all other EU governments did -- it changed its position to oppose the initiative after the Bush administration lobbied against it, fearing the law would harm U.S. exports. British ministers switched to the opposition side of the debate, calling the law "dangerously wrong."

Experts fear that if the Britain government successfully persuades other EU governments to oppose the initiative, no safety measures will be enforced, and the REACH law will be abandoned.

Paul Kind, director of WWF-UK's campaigns, said, "The Government has made an appallingly short-sighted policy decision, which will be seen in the same light as the defense of the tobacco industry in the 1960s and 1970s."


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