Thank goodness for the European Union, Margot Wallstrom and REACH!

You remember how back in 2006 everyone was getting poisoned by all those nasty chemicals that industry was using? Sure you do, millions falling over every month. And how Margot Wallstrom was able to push through the REACH legislation? To make sure that we were all safe and that only chemicals that had been properly tested were available for use? Glory be, aren't we lucky little boys and girls, eh?

The thing is though, there's a bill to be paid for this. In my email this morning I got this: 

In continuation to our earlier communication regarding this letter of access (LOA) cost for Sodium Iodide (EC no: 231-679-3) please be informed that the LOA cost calculated is 8500 Euros (for the 100 to 1000 tons per annum tonnage band); considering the present response in the SIEF.

Now, if I'm honest, a payment of € 8,500 to make sure that sodium iodide is safe to use doesn't seem like all that much.

Except that's not actually what this payment is. It's not one payment for someone to go through the scientific literature and say, well, yes, this appears to be safe. It's not even a payment for anyone to do any experiments. It's not even one payment.

Every single importer, manufacturer and or user (if you're a user and the manufacturer has done this you don't need to, but if you're a user and the manufacturer has not done this you do need to) has to pay this fee. This is after all of the importers, manufacturers and users have got together and agreed to share the costs. This is the cost each, not the total cost.

No! Wait! There's more! Every single chemical combination has to go through this process. OK, you don't have to deal with O and a couple of others but just about any possible combination of elements must go through this process. Given that there's 72 elements that we normally worry about (the radioactives and a few of the gases we tend not to) the number of possible combinations is 72! Which is, umm, 6.123445837688612e+103 or, at my level of maths, gazillions. Possibly even umpty elebenty billions.

So every single importer, manurfacturer and or user of a chemical combination has to, even after they band together to share the costs, pay this sort of sum for each and every chemical combination that can possibly be used in a complex economy of 500 million people and some billions of different products.

I suppose you could just about, possibly, make the case that this is worth it to make sure that we're not all poisoned in our beds. Maybe. But this isn't the cost of doing the testing or anything. No one is actually doing any work for all of this money.

This is the cost of filing the paperwork.

No, really, this is the fee that must be paid to the European Chemicals Agency just for the joy of having them look over the paperwork. We're not getting anything for this other than a bunch of bureaucrats in Helsinki reading a few .pdfs.

As I say, thank goodness for the European Union, Margot Wallstrom and REACH. Just think of the idiocies we would have spent all this moolah on if we'd had a choice. No one actually wanted to cure cancer, poverty or HIV anyway, did they?