European commissioners for the environment and for industry said Thursday that Europe will expand its list of potentially highly dangerous chemicals to 135 from a current 29 by the year 2012.
"We will start our work on 106 substances which have been identified by the member states as being of the highest priority," Environment Commissioner Janez Potocnik told reporters on a visit to the European Chemicals Agency (ECHA) in Helsinki.
The so-called candidate list of "substances of very high concern" (SVHC) currently contains 29 chemicals that are known to cause cancer, mutations or reproductive health problems, and tend to accumulate in the body and persist in the environment.
The producers of substances placed on the list are obliged to provide information on them to ECHA -- which is tasked with implementing the European Union's chemicals legislation -- and throughout the supply chain to consumers.
Satu Hassi from the European Parliament's environment committee said the announcement was "an important step forward," but urged quick action for further additions as there were "around 500 substances already known to meet this criteria".
Potocnik, who made the announcement together with industry and entrepreneurship commissioner Antonio Tajani, said efforts to this end would continue.
"It's not the end of the work, and that's obvious, and we have to agree on a kind of roadmap for the future," Potocnik said.
The commissioners also agreed on criteria companies need to comply with when requesting permission to use potentially harmful chemicals for which no safe alternatives have been found and where "their socio-economic benefits outweigh the risks linked to them".
Agreement in the interpretation of the so-called REACH regulation, which governs EU efforts to regulate and eliminate dangerous substances, lifts a deadlock that had blocked agreement on company guidance for "several years", ECHA said.
"We both think that cooperation between us is of utmost importance because only legislation which is implemented is good for society, is good for business, is good for the environment," Potocnik said.
The EU's REACH regulation -- short for Registration, Evaluation, Authorisation and Restriction of Chemicals -- makes industry responsible for proving the safety of a chemical and requires companies to register and provide information on all chemicals they use.
REACH entered into force when the EU's chemicals agency was opened in June 2007 and it requires companies that manufacture or import high volumes of chemicals or particularly hazardous substances to register with ECHA by November 30, 2010.
"We agreed that there is no change and no extension of the deadline of November 2010 for the first registration," Potocnik said, adding that a change of the deadline would send "the wrong message" to companies.