Where does Europe go to learn about pollution prevention? Lowell

08/06/2007
By Used with permission from the Lowell Sun Online.

By MICHAEL LAFLEUR
Sun Staff

LOWELL The European Union's Environment Commissioner made her first ever visit to the Mill City yesterday to meet with area business leaders about proposed changes in E.U. chemical regulations and review the work of the UMass Lowell Toxic Use Reduction Institution.

"We're proud of the fact that you picked Lowell in order to come and understand some of the strategies that have been devised here," UMass Lowell Chancellor William Hogan told Margot Wallstrom and others gathered yesterday at a luncheon in the Wannalancit Mills conference center, at 600 Suffolk St.

Research at the Toxic Use Reduction Institute (or TURI) focuses on preventing pollution related to the use of toxic chemicals in manufacturing, a mission that meshes with regulatory work in which Wallstrom is engaged.

Wallstrom, who hails from Sweden and is Europe's top environmental watchdog, spearheaded a broad overhaul of E.U. chemical regulations known as the REACH Proposal for Registration, Evaluation and Authorization of Chemicals which would be phased in over 11 years starting from 2006 and is much more far-reaching than anything ever attempted in the United States.

The measure is opposed by the United States and European chemical industries and will apply to many U.S. firms doing business in Europe. Hence yesterday's address to business representatives from across the Merrimack Valley.

Under REACH, which has yet to be adopted, companies would be required to register all chemicals used in manufacturing goods sold in Europe, providing data on their environmental and health effects. Government authorization would be needed for chemicals defined as carcinogens or reproductive health hazards.

"The current system is slow and insufficient and doesn't provide the level of protection for human health and the environment that we need," Wallstrom said at the luncheon.

She also noted that E.U. supporters of environmental regulations "have a growing feeling that we have come to our way's end in Washington. We have kind of agreed to disagree."

"But so many things are happening out there in the different states of the United States ... that I would like to see more of and know more about," she added.

Wallstrom addressed the U.S.-E.U. Chemicals Conference in Charlottesville, Va., on Monday and was headed to New York for a meeting of the United Nations' Commission for Sustainable Development later this week.

Michael Lafleur's e-mail address is mlafleur@lowellsun.com .