On 4 October 2005, the European Union (EU) Parliament's Environment Committee agreed, by a vote of 40–19, to support changes to REACH (Registration, Evaluation and Authorisation of Chemicals) legislation that would reduce testing and reporting requirements for low-volume chemical manufacturers1.

Originally proposed in October 2003 and currently being debated in the EU Parliament, REACH would overhaul the EU's chemical regulatory system, requiring manufacturers to register chemicals and provide safety testing information. REACH is intended to “increase the protection of human health and the environment from exposure to chemicals while at the same time to maintain and enhance the competitiveness and innovative capabilities of the EU chemicals industry2.”

In a concession to industry groups that have expressed concern that the implementation of REACH would be detrimental to small businesses, the Environment Committee agreed to ease requirements on testing and reporting for substances produced in quantities of 1–10 tons1. Approximately 17,500 chemicals fall into this category3.

To keep animal testing to a minimum, another approved amendment to the bill would require that in vitro tests, where available, be used instead of animal tests. In addition, companies would be required to consult with the European Centre for the Validation of Alternative Methods (ECVAM) before using animals in any tests, and to contact the European Chemicals Agency—the new agency that will manage the data—with the results of all animal tests1.

This report will be forwarded to the full assembly, which is scheduled to vote on it on 15 November. The final piece of legislation will take effect in 2007.