This past summer Europe raised the stakes in trans-Atlantic bargaining power. New chemical laws went into effect a couple of months ago which have sent American businesses scrambling back to the drawing board to seek newer and safer ways to create and enhance products that will flow into the European market – a market of 27 countries and almost 500 million people.

The new laws in the European Union require companies to demonstrate that a chemical is safe before it enters commerce – the opposite of policies in the United States, where regulators must prove that a chemical is harmful before it can be restricted or removed from the market. Manufacturers believe that complying with the European laws will add billions to their costs, possibly driving up prices of some products.

Of course, the Bush administration and the U.S. chemical industry adamantly oppose the E.U. laws, which will be phased in over the next decade. The laws also call for the European Union to create a list of “substances of very high concern” – those suspected of causing cancer or other health problems. Any manufacturer wishing to produce or sell a chemical on that list must receive authorization.

From its crackdown on antitrust practices in the computer industry to its rigorous protection of consumer privacy, the European Union has adopted a regulatory philosophy that emphasizes the consumer.

Photo Credit: Google Images


Compare the European Union’s position to that of the lenient regulatory scheme in place in the United States which has led to the banning of only five chemicals since 1976. The EPA relies on the chemical industry to voluntarily stop production of suspect chemicals. Another instance of the fox guarding the chicken coop. What is truly amazing is the fact that many of the cleaners and substances we use everyday have never been tested for safety. The only visible warning is the skull and crossbones and the label warnings on the containers.

Focusing on consumer protection in the European Union has upped the ante for American businesses. Imagine that – what a novel idea to really worry about protecting the consumer.


About Charlotte A. Weybright

I own a home in the historical West Central Neighborhood of Fort Wayne, Indiana. I have four grown sons and nine grandchildren - four grandsons and five granddaughters. I love to work on my home, and I enjoy crafts of all types. But, most of all, I enjoy being involved in political and community issues.
This entry was posted in Environment, Environmental Protection Agency, Europe, European Union and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.


  1. Jim Wetzel says:

    I wonder how “chemical” is defined, in terms of Euro-law? I wonder what constitutes a demonstration of safety? (Kind of tough to “prove a negative” — although perhaps demonstration, for their purposes, differs from proof.)

  2. Jim:

    Yes, negatives have always been a difficult topic. But check out the labels on your household cleaners, polishes, etc. and see what the products contain. The labels are put on because the manufacturers know the chemicals included are harmful and often fatal.

    Yet we have thousands of these items flowing into our market every day. No one bothers to ask the manufacturers if they have found a safer alternative. Fortunately, some companies have begun to produce less harmful alternatives. SC Johnson – whose motto is “A Family Company” – has patented a process called the Greenlist. The list identifies 95% of the raw materials SC Johnson uses to rate their harmfulness.

    Many will see the European Union’s actions as “hysterical environmentalism.” But many others will view it as innovative and novel to switch the burden to the chemical companies rather than wait until harm has occurred. The chemical industry is a powerful entity, and I imagine will not be too thrilled to have to retool its products to meet European standards. But if they want to keep that market, then they won’t have a choice.

  3. TiredoldTrooper says:

    What a novel approach! Instead of the U.S. “Let the buyer beware” patient medicine attitude, the EU has moved toward a twenty-first century medical attitude of “First, Do No Harm”.

    If nothing else, the chemical industry will have to charge more to the EU customer which might help with the balance of trade. You can bet your next viagra pill the United States will never adapt such a people friendly approach.

  4. Trooper:

    It sure is a novel approach – one which I doubt that our chemical industry will adopt. After I read about the European Union’s actions, I really started thinking about the harmful substances we keep around our homes.

    I am sometimes afraid to even clean a drain any more. When I read the labels with all the instructions and warnings, I worry about getting even one drop on my skin.

    And, you’re right on the increased charges. The companies will have to recover their increased expenditures for testing products and registering them with the EU.

  5. I read about this awhile ago. Chemical is a broad term and includes lipsticks and cosmetics(the french were pissed because they were losing market). Really anything they want to classify as a chemical is one. If you think this is about the consumer you are 1% right. This is about money.
    God bless DDT.

    We need more test bunnies to rub drano in their eyes.

  6. Clint:

    I realize chemical is a broad term. I have no doubt there will be much discussion about what will or will not be accepted in the EU. But, hey it’s their union, and they have the right to set standards.

    The French weren’t alone in this new venture, so why blame them?

    And boy – such negativism! Is it really so hard to actually think that countries might really care about their citizens over business?

  7. It is a fact, this isnt about caring about their citizens. It is because they are/were unable to compete. I forgot the US doesnt have any reg on chemicals.

    I am not blaming the French alone==that was an example of fact. Their cosmetic industry could not compete with the large international companies. So to protect their home grown they started this crap.

    I suppose all of the EU and china are not taking gmo corn even though we have been using it for years is about safety. Come on China? They make American companies like Monsanto pay through the nose. Wake up…. Its all about the money

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