Local view for "http://purl.org/linkedpolitics/eu/plenary/2006-10-24-Speech-2-372"

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"Mr President, I would like to start by thanking all the shadow rapporteurs for their very sound and constructive cooperation. It made it possible to find a solution at first reading together with the Council, which also did some good work on this issue. This solution improves on the Commission’s original proposal, and I am pleased to see that the Commission too is now backing the compromise. PFOS and PFOS-related substances are highly fluorinated and extremely difficult to break down. They are additionally very bioaccumulative. We have become aware that chloro-organic compounds are poisonous and cause problems in the environment and we have observed that bromo-organic compounds are hazardous. Fire retardants pose a bigger threat than the fires they were designed to prevent. It is now the turn of fluoro-organic compounds. They are extremely stable, and the bond between the fluorine and carbon is the strongest in organic chemistry. The properties of stability and surface activity are what have made PFOS a much sought-after chemical. It has, as the Commissioner says, been used for many years in surface treatment for chemicals and textiles. The largest manufacturer realised the risks posed to its workers and to the consumers of its products. Its workers had high levels of the chemical in their bodies, and it decided to withdraw the PFOS product Scotchguard from the market. The Commission’s aim with this proposal was to prevent the re-introduction of PFOS, but the compromise goes further. We now have tougher concentration regulations and we are setting the limit for preparations at 0.005%. This is reasonable, given that its very properties as a surfactant mean that PFOS is used in low concentrations. If the limit were set at 0.1%, there would be a risk of more applications slipping through the legislative net. The definition of surfaces at 1 microgram per square metre shares the same purpose. Under the compromise with the Council, PFOS is also prohibited in fire-fighting foams. This is entirely logical. There are already alternatives on the market that do not contain fluoro-organic compounds. It is also appropriate to phase out stocks, and, in the compromise, Parliament has extended this phasing-out period to 54 months. Everyone has a vested interest in hastening the phase-out. The large oil fire in the UK that resulted in millions of litres of water being contaminated with PFOS showed the costs of using PFOS. The only way to destroy PFOS is by high-temperature combustion. Everyone can see for themselves how much work is involved in burning millions of litres of water at high temperature. Chromium plating is the other big area. In this field, the proposal restricts the use of non-decorative hard chromium-plating using hexavalent chromium as the process implement. This exception, moreover, is to be reviewed after an inventory of existing essential uses, which is to be carried out by the Member States within two years. In this area too there are alternatives, such as bigger, enclosed systems, better ventilation and in the future, I hope, also other processes. As far as other exceptions such as photolithography processes and anti-reflective coating and industrial treatments for photographic film are concerned, the quantities in question are very small. Even so, these exceptions too will cease to apply once alternatives are technically and financially feasible. I would also like to speak about PFOA, which refers to the acids and salts of the same group of substances. In Germany, many people in the Ruhr area know what it is like to have contaminated water. People now have to take their drinking water from tanker vehicles, which is a costly and unsustainable solution. We can attempt to stop these contaminants by means of the codicil that has been added to the compromise on PFOA, according to which the Commission is to analyse and continuously take stock of progress on alternatives. Once there are reliable alternatives, these will replace PFOA. I believe that we are ahead of our time here. We must get to grips with this matter because the next great environmental issue may be fluoro-organic chemistry and the various forms thereof. This is a first step towards protecting people and the environment from a number of these substances. I would also point out that this is a first reading agreement and that if Parliament were now to support this compromise, that would also mean that the Council would support it and that we should be ready before REACH enters into force. This agreement would then form an annex to REACH. If we were unable to succeed with this agreement tomorrow, the proposal would simply fall, as REACH would then take over."@en1

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