Black Country business leaders have delivered a stark message to European lawmakers that unless proposed rules on chemical production are changed, industry faces a needless multi-billion pound burden.
A delegation of Chamber members and officials went to Brussels to meet Euro-MPs, European Commission officials and lobbyists to discuss the proposed legislation.
They pressed home the message that the REACH - Registration, Evaluation and Authorisation of Chemicals - directive in its present form was impractical and potentially damaging to the economy.
REACH is designed to replace a raft of existing regulations with a simplified system that will identify and control risks posed by chemicals to humans and the environment.
Under the proposals, due to become law in 2007, all substances produced in or imported into the EU must be registered if the volume involved is greater than one tonne a year.
The products must then be evaluated by government inspectors and authorisation will be required for substances regarded as being of high risk.
Opponents of the current proposals say that the tonnage-based approach is too heavy-handed.
The paperwork, risk evaluation and inspection process will add enormous costs to business, making it less competitive.
The EC's own figures put the maximum cost of the scheme to the chemical industry and its customers at £3.6 billion.
Critics say the crucial weakness of the Commission proposals is the lack of a relationship between the substances involved and the risks they pose.
The direct costs of registering a substance will range from £13.80 to £275.
German Euro-MP Hartmut Nassauer told the Black Country delegation that the probable costs would be disproportionate to the revenues generated by the substances, especially when low volumes were involved.
This would have a particularly serious impact on small and medium sized businesses.
Mr Nassauer has proposed an amendment to the legislation that will focus attention on risk rather than volume.
He said under current proposals up to 20 per cent of products could disappear as manufacturers found that the new rules made it uneconomic.
"The draft legislation will affect not only producers of substances are affected, but also traders, users of substances and importers," he said.
Cindy Fokehrer of Eurochambres, the European federation of chambers of commerce, said business organisations across the EU were opposed to the proposals.
She urged Chamber members to lobby the commission using their local knowledge to make sure a more sensible approach was adopted.
Russell Barlow, of Johnson Matthey Colour Technologies, which supplies dyes and glazes to the ceramics industry, said the new rules would force expenditure on raw material suppliers, many of whom might not survive the extra cost.
"Many chemicals - even those known to cause cancer or other serious problems - have been in use for centuries.
"We know the risks and we don't need a new set of laws to tell us how to deal with them.
"Some ceramics companies may ship their entire manufacturing operations abroad and for those that remain there is the potential £4-6 million cost of testing just to keep the colours we use now, let alone any new developments."
Black Country Chamber president John Tew said: "The message is that this is more than just another 'cost to business'.
"It goes much wider than that; there is a real risk of jobs and products disappearing."