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|A FULL MEETING OF THE EUROPEAN PARLIAMENT has reversed the vote of its own transport committee and approved plans to amend and standardise the EU limits on flying time despite the opposition of BALPA, the UK pilots’ union. The committee had voted 21-13 against the plans. The argument between European airline pilots, represented by their federation the European Cockpit Association (ECA), and the EU agency which advises on the rules on flying time, the European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA), has been going on since at least 2008 when new regulations were introduced which the union thought were too lax. The latest proposals, scheduled to be implemented in 2015, have fared no better; BALPA has been in the forefront of the campaign against them as they believe that current British rules will be diluted.||
Before a walkout in January ECA President Nico Voorbach said that the new regulations ‘will endanger flying for everyone’. BALPA, having convinced the UK parliamentary transport select committee of the justice of their case in September, reiterated that pilots could beasked to land a ’plane having been awake for 22 hours. They also believe that long-haul flights will be flown by two pilots rather than the current three and that early starts will be allowed seven times in a row as opposed to the current limit of three.
On opposite sides: BALPA’s Jim McAuslan & Brian Simpson MEP
THE EUROPEAN CHEMICALS AGENCY is the body which oversees the main EU directive on chemicals, the REACH regulations. However it is also charged with administrating other EU measures including the new Biocidal Products Regulation which came into force on 1st. September. Biocides are substances that kill living organisms, examples include non-fouling paint which prevent plant growth on ships’ hulls and chlorine added to swimming pools. By their very nature, however, they can also pose problems for human health. Now a biocide can only be sold in the European Union if both its active substance and the product itself has been authorised. Lists of suppliers will be drawn up and any company not included by September 2015 will not be allowed to trade in these products. On the other hand EU-wide authorisation, which will be handled online, will make it easier for producers than the current need to apply to 28 separate governments.
Two of the main aims of the new regulation are to reduce animal testing and to substitute the most harmful chemicals with safer substances. To these ends suppliers will have to share test data and the criteria used to choose excluded substances will be publicised. National authorities will also play a part in the process. Several countries are setting up help desks, web sites and email services in expectation of many enquiries from companies. ‘The Member States will be responsible for evaluating the applications for approval of active substances or Union authorisation of biocidal products’ according to Hugues Kenigswald, the head of the Biocides Unit at the ECHA. They must nominate one member each to a Biocidal Products Committee within the agency.
PROPOSED NEW LAWS TO BAN and regulate the use of endocrine-disrupting substances have sparked off a heated debate among researchers in the field. The glands of the endocrine system control the release of hormones that regulate growth, development, sleep and mood in humans. Many chemicals manufactured by industry are suspected of disrupting this system resulting in diabetes, obesity, infertility and some forms of cancer. Not surprisingly the European Commission has been under pressure from health and consumer groups and trade unions, such as the research arm of the Spanish CC.OO federation, to regulate the sale and use of these substances. From an original list of 564, EU-backed studies identfiied 118 chemicals that showed some evidence of endocrine disruption (EDCs). In May as the publication date for their proposals approached, 89 scientists signed a declaration calling for the implementation of a ‘regulatory regime for EDCs that is based on sound scientific principles’. However two months later an editorial signed by 18 periodical editors in ‘Food and Chemical Toxicology’ called the leaked proposal a ‘Scientifically unfounded precaution’. Further fuel was added to the controversy when the ‘Environmental Health News’ asserted that 17 of the 18 editors had links to the industry including one who had received over $500,000 from the European Chemical Industry Council (CEFIC) over a two-year period. In September another group of researchers accused the authors of the critical editorial of doing ‘a profound disservice’ to public health.