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    Divergences (sometimes of major proportions) between the
    results of physical measurements or chemical analyses carried
    out by different laboratories in the Community often lie at the
    root of disputes between companies or even between Member
    States as well as of barriers to trade, financial losses, etc.
    By bringing together the most competent laboratories in the
    Community, the Community Bureau of Reference (BCR) programme
    enables the causes of these discrepancies to be identified and
    eliminated through the harmonization not of the measuring
    methods - which may continue to differ - but of the results,
    once a type of specific measurement has been mastered.
    Altogether, more than 700 laboratories are involved in this
    For instance, recent work by the BCR has had the effect of
    reducing to 0.2% (the best attainable level within current
    technical limitations) disparities in gas-flow measurements
    involving major pipelines.  Previously, these disparities had
    been a source of conflict among the Member States.
    In the agri-foodstuffs sector, the programme has resulted in
    the elimination of certain errors in toxicological measurements
    involving powdered milk.  These measurements varied by a factor
    of 10 000 in the case of cadmium and by a factor of 1 000 in
    the case of certain toxins.
    These findings emerge from the Report on the implementation of
    the programme of the Community Bureau of Reference (BCR) on
    Applied Metrology and Reference Materials (1983-87), which the
    Commission has just transmitted to the Council and to
    Parliament.  The Report takes stock of the results obtained at
    this midway stage in the programme.
                                 - 2 -
    Technical support in favour of standardization
    The Community Bureau of Reference plays a crucial role in the
    Community's technical harmonization policy.  Its activities,
    which were first launched in 1973, have been gradually extended
    and will be required to develop still further in the future.
    Through its work the BCR is a major source of technical support
    in the quest for standardization on a European scale.  Such
    standardization, moreover, presupposes the attainment of the
    "big market", which will be one of the Community's major
    objectives over the years to come.
    The BCR programme is designed specifically to bring about
    closer agreement in Community results, analyses and
    measurements, i.e., measurements of physical quantities
    (length, mass, volume, electric current, noise, etc.),
    measurements of the physical properties of materials
    (mechanical strength, thermal conductivity, etc.) and chemical
    analyses (including analyses in the medical field).
    The BCR's activities take place both upstream and downstream of
    the standardization work proper.  The projects included in the
    programme are linked to the preparation or application of
    technical standards or Community directives covering the
    industrial, environmental, foodstuffs and health sectors.
    Some of the projects currently under way will help to limit
    considerably divergences in measurements of the insulating and
    sound-proofing properties of double-glazed windows.  At
    present, these divergences constitute definite barriers to
    trade. Other projects are concerned with measurements of
    background noise in telecommunications systems.
    As regards the environment, the BCR's activities have produced
    significant improvements in a number of analyses relating to
    heavy-metal or organic-compound traces (carcinogens,
    pesticides) the results of which diverged considerably from one
    laboratory to another (as in the case of powdered milk referred
    to above).
    Other work currently under way in the agri-foodstuffs sector is
    concerned with measurements of heavy metals and hormones in
    meats as well as analyses of oils, fats, flours and fruit
    juices.  Taking all the areas covered, some 600 products have
    benefited from the work of the BCR since 1973.
                                -  3 -
    International cooperation
    Under this programme, for which a budget of 25 million ECU has
    been earmarked over the five-year period, 90 projects have
    already been launched, with each project bringing together
    between 5 and 20 different laboratories.  Among these 700 or so
    laboratories (national metrology laboratories, chemical
    analysis laboratories, technological testing laboratories), the
    Community Bureau of Reference has stimulated the development of
    close cooperation that now extends to areas of activity other
    than those laid down in the programme.  Quite clearly, this
    cooperation will be required to play a crucial role in the
    process of European technical harmonization.
    The BCR is also recognized outside Europe, as is illustrated by
    the fact that in the United States the National Bureau of
    Standards distributes the 200 or so reference materials
    supplied by the BCR.

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