Brussels, Belgium - Former US ambassador to the European Union, and bromine industry advisor, Stuart Eizenstat has issued a stark warning concerning the state of EU-US trade if political activists are allowed to undermine European chemical legislation.
The warning comes after a green think-tank proposed that a range of fire safety products should be banned under EU law despite having passed exhaustive European risk assessments.
Writing in European Voice, Eizenstat warns that the long-awaited REACH Directive could be compromised before it has even been given a chance to succeed by a separate decision now pending under the RoHS (Restrictions on the use of Hazardous Substances in electronic equipment) Directive.
He writes, "The shared EU-US goal of barrier-free transatlantic trade risks being undermined by regulatory decisions that increasingly seem divorced from scientific assessments."
Eizenstat argues that governmental efforts to enhance trade across the Atlantic would greatly benefit from the consistent and predictable regulatory treatment, provided by REACH, of thousands of chemicals used in products throughout the European Union.
"Brominated flame retardants are a perfect example of the risk-benefit balance, based on scientific assessments, that REACH and the RoHS Directive were designed to resolve. Flame-retardants are in furniture, fabrics and electronics, and they are all vital to preventing human injury and property destruction from fires.
"Through scientific assessments, regulators can balance risks from the use of flame-retardants, if any, and the added public safety benefit from fire suppression. Because the decision-making process can often become technical - examining the risks inherent in specific chemical applications, the substitutes available, and the efficacy of the substitutes - these decisions are best left to scientists rather than interest group pressure," said Eizenstat.
A recent study carried out by the Oko Institut (Institute for Applied Ecology) for the European Commission lists about 46 chemical compounds, including several flame-retardants that have been targeted by activists, to be considered for a ban under the RoHS Directive despite the new REACH Directive coming into force.
Eizenstat warned, "While it is an initial draft and the Oko Institut may well narrow the list, the message has nonetheless been delivered that scientific assessments are at risk of being ignored. If this proposal is allowed to stand, these chemicals could be banned, contrary to scientific assessments and even before REACH has had an opportunity to evaluate the relative risks and benefits."
He concluded. "Banning products that are demonstrably not hazardous is exactly the kind of politicised regulation, arbitrary decision-making, opaque process, and inconsistent regulation that REACH was designed to avoid. REACH should be allowed to go forward without political influences disconnected from sound science-based regulatory decisions."