What price Europe's health? The question lies at the heart of a debate over a draft chemicals law that detractors say could cost Europe its dominance of the lucrative sector.
The law, known as REACH, would require the testing and licensing of thousands of commonly used substances, like those in paint and detergents, to determine whether they pose a threat to the environment and consumers' health.
Chemical makers bemoan the multi-billion-euro pricetag and the reams of red tape that may be needed to implement the bill.
Some say REACH could cost Europe its place as world leader in chemical manufacture. The United States, worried its exports might be hit, has said the law could disrupt global trade.
But environmentalists and health advocates say the £340 million a year chemicals sector must be held more accountable and say the bill will spur innovation.
The REACH legislation has been in the works for nearly seven years but the next few months will be crucial as the draft law moves through committees in the European Parliament with a vote of the full body scheduled for November.
The EU's 25 member states must also give their approval. Britain wants a deal by the end of the year, although some say that is optimistic.
Behind the somewhat tortuous legislative process lies a conflict between the values of business and the EU's muchvaunted social and environmental credentials.
"Our very high dependence on complex chemicals is not matched by sufficient knowledge about their potential risks and long-term effects," EU Environment Commissioner Stavros Dimas said. "Such a situation is simply unacceptable."
REACH, which stands for Registration, Evaluation and Authorisation of Chemicals, is designed to protect people and the environment from possible adverse effects of chemicals found in a wide range of products from cars to computers.
Chemical makers would have to register the properties of substances with a central EU database. Those of highest concern, like carcinogens, would undergo a risk assessment and the most dangerous chemicals would require a special authorisation.
The EU Commission forecasts REACH will cost the chemical industry £1.56 billion over 11 years.
Total costs to industry - including sectors like metals, textiles, electronics and cars - are estimated between £1.9 million and £3.5 billion.
The Commission said REACH would create health benefits worth £34 million over 30 years.
Environmentalists, who say the bill has already been watered down, fear industry concerns will render REACH even less effective.