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San Francisco Endorses European Chemical Reforms

WWF Applauds US-based Support for Improved Environmental Protection

Washington, DC - San Francisco's Board of Supervisors voted 10-1 on October 28 to adopt a resolution supporting a proposed European Union law to control hazardous chemicals.

"San Francisco recently became the first city in the nation to adopt the Precautionary Principle as a guidepost for city policy," according to San Francisco Supervisor Jake McGoldrick. "Now by supporting REACH we can take another step forward in protecting our communities from toxics chemicals."

The European initiative, called REACH (Registration, Evaluation, and Authorization of Chemicals), would shift the burden of proving the health and environmental safety onto companies that manufacture, use and import most major industrial chemicals.

"WWF applauds the leadership demonstrated by San Francisco, which recognizes the enormous environmental, health and economic benefits that are within reach if we can only muster the political will to reform our antiquated toxics laws," said Clif Curtis, director of WWF's Toxics Program. "An effective REACH law could provide a global model for improved protection from hazardous chemicals."

The REACH proposal was officially adopted by the European Commission on October 29, and will now be the focus of debate in the European Parliament and Council. The legislation is expected to be finalized in late 2005 and to be phased in over the following decade.

The San Francisco resolution noted serious shortcomings under US law which has permitted over 90 percent of the chemicals on the market to be used even though they lack basic safety information. The resolution also cites recent reports of strong lobbying by the US government and the chemical industry to weaken this international law.

"Americans should support this measure for protecting the environment and public health," said Michael Green, Executive Director of the non-profit Center for Environmental Health in Oakland. "We cannot let the Bush Administration speak for us when we have the chance to reign in these polluting industries."

San Francisco, a city of more than 760,000 people, has a long reputation for progressive social and environmental positions.