In a remarkable book written by Mark Schapiro Exposed: The Toxic Chemistry of Everyday Products and What’s at Stake for American Power, he details how the European Union (EU) has supplanted the United States as the leader in the fight against environmental toxicity. On June 1, 2007, the parliament of the EU voted for a new law called REACH Registration, Evaluation, and Authorization of Chemicals.
One part of this law forces companies to prove the safety of chemicals before they come to market. More importantly, it forces previously grandfathered chemicals to be tested for safety which was vehemently opposed by not just the American Chemical Society but by our own government. It scared them so much that they sent in C. Boyden Gray, the heir to the RJ Reynolds tobacco fortune to lobby against it. This is the same Republican operative who worked to eviscerate the EPA under Reagan by applying cost-benefit analysis over risk-based decision making. In other words, make money first, care about peoples health second. According to the magazine the New Republic, “So many different money trails lead to, by and through Gray it is bewildering.”
In retrospect, I’m glad my government in their ultimate arrogance decided to lobby as hard as they did because in the end, this we’re better than you attitude is what pushed the EU parliament to pass the bill. According to one European diplomat quoted in Mr. Schapiro’s book “If their only message is why we should not do anything more than they’re doing in the United States, then why should we listen? The more the United States give the impression of mounting an attack against REACH, the less we listen….. We are not going to ask the United States for permission. If we were to listen to the United States, how would we explain to European citizens where the two hundred chemicals in their bodies came from? What are we doing to them? This is the same not just for Europeans, but for Americans and every country in the world.”
The Bush Administrations steadfast belief that it is more important to make a dollar today for their big buddies than protecting the citizens of the United States is causing us to lose the leadership role we had for decades. He has lost us the respect from the world, not just because of the ill-conceived war, but because the world sees us as only caring for profits, not for people under the guise of jobs. How many jobs could we create by leading the world in the research of safer products? Millions of them. Sad to say, we won’t see a change soon unless there is a change in the White House come this November. We need it to save our children and the billions of children unborn coming to this world in the next hundred years.