EU Obligation to Protect its People and the Environment from All Harm caused by Endocrine Disrupting Chemicals

A more protective European approach to endocrine disruptors is long overdue. Read our eight demands to the EU Commission for an EDC-Free future

EDC-Free Europe Statement on EU EDCs Strategy, May 2018.

Why we are concerned

Endocrine disrupting chemicals (EDCs) are increasing our chances of getting serious and potentially lethal diseases and health disorders as highlighted by experts from the World Health Organization (WHO), scientists from the Endocrine Society, and others. In these reviews of scientific literature, impacts from EDCs have been linked to reproductive and fertility problems such as drastically falling sperm rates, as well as hormone dependent cancers such as breast and prostate cancers. Neurological impairments including autism and IQ loss as well as metabolic changes including obesity and diabetes have also been associated with exposures to EDCs. In wildlife, there is further evidence of reproductive and developmental harm linked to impairments in endocrine function in a number of wildlife species: EDCs have been associated with changes in immunity and behaviour as well as skeletal deformities.

A growing body of science underpins the ways in which some people are more vulnerable than others to the health impacts of endocrine disruption, even in small doses, with effects sometimes appearing decades later. The time during development in the womb and during early childhood has been found to be a particularly sensitive window of exposure and has raised serious concerns among health professionals. In 2015 over 100 national societies of obstetricians and gynaecologists from around the world called on policymakers to prioritise reducing exposures as an important means of disease prevention.

Avoiding EDCs is not a choice that a person can make anymore. EDCs are found everywhere in our daily lives: from high-profile substances, such as the bisphenols used in the making of certain plastic bottles and can linings, and restricted phthalates that are still found in one out of five toys; the flame retardants used in sofas; the pesticides sprayed on and ending up in our food; and the antimicrobial biocides found in cleaning products. They are nearly everywhere, both at home and in the workplace. The nonprofit research institute the Endocrine Disruption Exchange (TEDX) lists over 1,400 potential EDCs, the WHO mentions over 800 EDCs, and many more suspected EDCs still need to be investigated.

EDCs end up in all of us – children and adults alike – contaminating our bodies without our consent or knowledge. Human biomonitoring samples of urine, hair and blood across Europe are starting to demonstrate the extent of that internal pollution. In France, over 20 EDCs were found in women tested for the presence of these chemicals in 2015. The European Biomonitoring Initiative has included many EDCs and potential EDCs in its priority list and the results will be used to inform policy decisions on specific substances.

Most importantly, EU laws regulating EDCs are not protecting us – the ones that are supposed to do so are patchy, not properly implemented and leave huge gaps where EDCs are not regulated at all such as in cosmetics, toys, textiles, furniture and food packaging and in other articles that we come into contact with every day.

What we want

In 2017 the EU Commission committed to bring out a new integrated strategy on EDCs which is supposed to cover ´for example toys, cosmetics and food packaging´. Previous attempts to update the existing EU Community Strategy on EDCs from 1999 with recent scientific advances and actions to tackle the problem was derailed by intense industry lobby in 2013 as documented by the investigation ‘Toxic Affair’.

We are calling on EU Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker to bring out a fully-fledged strategy before the summer of 2018. This would include a concrete action plan aiming for a high level of protection for human health, especially vulnerable groups, and the environment. Tangible activities should have clear targets, a timeline and a reasonable budget. This would be an opportunity for reconnecting the EU’s agenda with citizens’ demands for better public health protection on EDCs as illustrated by widely supported petitions developed and supported by the EDC-Free campaign partners in 2017. The first one was delivered to member states with almost half a million signatures in July, and the second one with over 300,000 signatures in October.

An EU EDC strategy could also support and build on efforts by progressive countries, such as France, Sweden and Denmark, which are already implementing actions on EDCs. Belgium has just announced the launch of a national action plan on EDCs. It should be in the interest of the European Commission to promote harmonisation when it leads to an equal and high level of protection for all EU citizens, and supports the avoidance of barriers to trade within the European single market. Today, a clear EU commitment is needed to reduce people`s exposure to EDCs in a more comprehensive way throughout Europe.

This is not only a unique opportunity to increase well-being by preventing diseases, but it can also contribute to reducing the rising costs associated with EDC-related illnesses, as showed by a study evaluating the bill at a staggering 163 billion Euros a year for Europe, even though its scope covered only a few, rather than all, EDC-related illnesses. This is also an opportunity for policy coherence and for the EU to set a regulatory framework that builds the foundations for a truly non-toxic circular economy by encouraging industrial innovation through safer substitution. Considering that our exposure to preventable environmental chemicals is estimated to result in health costs worth 10% of global GDP, there is a real business case for promoting safe substitution to toxic EDCs through a comprehensive EU strategy for action.

We need a comprehensive action plan that effectively prevents further impacts on health and ends wildlife loss associated with EDCs. It needs to set out legal actions for eliminating exposure and to contribute towards meeting the 2030 commitments set out in the Sustainable Development Goals to “substantially reduce the number of deaths and illnesses from hazardous chemicals and air, water, and soil pollution and contamination“.

The EU EDC Strategy must reflect the most recent advances in science and draw the logical conclusions from them by complementing existing obligations in the EU regulatory context. The following identifies the eight crucial elements that the EDC strategy needs to include to enable the EU to effectively protect health and the environment against EDCs.

Essential elements of an EU Endocrine Disrupting Chemicals Strategy

  1. Consider public health and precaution as the cornerstones of a new EU EDC Strategy
    Protect those who are most vulnerable. Reduce exposures to children to prevent suffering from EDC-related diseases and the spiralling costs associated with treating them. Build on and expand the short-, medium- and long-term actions from the 1999 EU EDC strategy and augment their effectiveness.
  2. Enhance public awareness of EDCs – connect it with the EU’s work on protecting citizen’s health
    A recent Eurobarometer survey found that two out of three European citizens are concerned about exposure to chemicals in their daily lives through food, air, drinking water and consumer products or other items, as well as in the workplace. Less than half of the same group felt well informed about the potential dangers of chemicals. A Europe-wide campaign to raise awareness on EDCs is needed.
    Specific focuses of such a campaign should include:

    • Informing parents before and during pregnancy, and families in general, about ways to minimise exposures in everyday life.
    • The dissemination of good practice for exposure reductions and health advice connected to grassroots and local agendas and the creation of a bank of success stories showing how the EU is making a difference.
    • Information and training materials for medical, health and educational professionals and multiplier groups so that they can advise the public on reducing their exposures.
    • A response to consumers’ concerns and the provision of tools for traceability and the right to know for chemicals in products.
  3. Improve regulation: Increase the control of the use of EDCs across all sectors
    • Make a plan with timetables to implement suitable EDC criteria in all relevant EU laws to identify and reduce exposures to EDCs.
    • Address missed deadlines first, like the 2015 one for cosmetics and obvious loopholes like toys, food packaging regulations. Commit to addressing other relevant EU legislation and sources of exposure, such as public procurement, worker’s exposure, textiles, etc. and deliver on the 7th EAP commitment.
    • Support the implementation of the EU Plastics Strategy by banning the presence of EDCs in plastics in particular as the presence of EDCs can hinder recyclability and negatively affect the value of recyclates.
    • EDCs should be regulated with the presumption that no safe threshold for exposure can be set with sufficient certainty.
    • EDCs should be regulated by using group approaches based on similar structures and similar properties to avoid regrettable substitution.
    • Implement and enforce, efficiently and ambitiously, the existing regulatory obligations controlling the use of EDCs. This includes speeding up the inclusion of EDCs in the REACH candidate list of substances of very high concern and the adoption of measures to limit exposure, such as REACH restrictions or REACH authorisation. Currently only 12 substances have been identified as EDCs under REACH.
    • Accelerate the assessment of EDCs to implement restrictions on them in pesticides and biocides.
    • Create new sectorial laws to ensure robust protection in priority for consumer products. For most consumer products, e.g. textiles, child care articles, plastics there is no specific provision addressing EDCs.
  4. Reduce our EDC daily cocktail: Replace the substance-by-substance approach by including all possible sources of exposure to multiple chemicals
    • Prioritise the identification and regulation of the most problematic groups of hormone disrupting chemicals and swiftly act on known co-exposures to harmful chemicals from various sources (e.g. indoor air pollution, dust, food contact materials). Move from a single substance risk assessment to cumulative assessments for chemicals acting on the same adverse outcome and similar chemicals. Sweden and Denmark are looking at this issue in the context of their national work.
    • Respond more swiftly to early warning signals from new scientific findings about potential health or environmental damages in re-approvals and authorisations of substances. When concerns show up in one chemical use, a risk evaluation should automatically be triggered across legislative ‘silos’ to fully assess the impact of cumulative exposures and to ensure swift action in the absence of full scientific certainty.
  5. Speed up testing, screening and identification of EDCs
    • Update test requirements with new and updated screens and test methods in all relevant EU laws so that data gaps will be closed and EDCs can be identified. The EU should systematically make industry responsible for providing sufficient evidence to demonstrate safety.
    • Prioritise data collection on potential EDCs and draw up lists to communicate to consumers and business alike.
    • Improve the screening and testing guidelines used to identify EDCs and address data gaps.
  6. Work towards a clean ´Circular economy´ and a non-toxic environment: Avoid toxic substances such as EDCs in products from the start
    • Need to have full traceability to avoid finding EDCs in recycled materials.
    • Need to have producer responsibility. Each company should be obliged to inform consumers about the chemical content of their products, including the packaging.
    • Need to have the same level of protection from EDCs for primary and secondary materials, which means that when an EDC is banned from a virgin material, it should be banned from recycled materials as well, contrary to current practice.
  7. Enhance European market leadership for safer substitution with no regrets and promotion of innovative solutions
    • Support initiatives that guide companies to move away from EDCs. Some examples can be found at chemsec.org – market place, the ‘dating platform’ for companies trying to meet a provider of safer alternatives.
    • Limit and avoid the use of pesticides in agriculture and the management of green or urban areas and set specific targets for an overall reduction of pesticide use in line with the Sustainable Use of Pesticides Directive (2009/128/EC).
    • Encourage communication campaigns at a national level in order for citizens to be 1) more mindful about chemical use in their daily lives, in particular during pregnancy and with children, 2) to have the right to know about EDCs in products.
  8. Monitor the health and environmental effects of single, groups and mixtures of ED substances to capture all sources of EDC exposure ‘across the board’ and respond swiftly to minimise them
    • Ensure sufficient focus on investigating chemicals of new and emerging concern which are used as replacements for banned chemicals in the context of the EU Human Biomonitoring Initiative.
    • Develop sensitive test methods with new endpoints such as chemicals interfering with brain development and ensure they are appropriately considered within the regulatory evaluations.

EDC-Free Europe is a coalition of public interest groups representing more than 70 environmental, health, women’s and consumer groups across Europe who share a concern about hormone disrupting chemicals (EDCs) and their impact on our health and wildlife. Campaign partners include trade unions, consumers, public health and healthcare professionals, advocates for cancer prevention, environmentalists and women’s groups.

Reference. Image credit @EDCFree

Call on MEPs to protect us all from the real dangers of endocrine disruptors

Tell the Members of the European Parliament to put public health before corporate profits and ban harmful EDCs

Monsanto, Bayer, and BASF are about to score a major win by keeping toxic endocrine disrupting chemicals (EDCs) that poison our health off the radar.

Recently, a majority of EU member countries accepted a European Commission legislative proposal on EDCs that would leave us vulnerable to these toxic substances — especially children and pregnant women most susceptible to EDCs.

Experts are slamming the proposal, which sets criteria for which chemicals get classified as EDCs. They say it sets the burden of proof of harm so high that most of these harmful chemicals will go unregulated.

Even more, this dangerous text is now in danger of becoming law throughout the EU.

But it’s not over yet. The Commission’s proposal must now be approved by the European Parliament on 3 October, which means there’s still time for our voices to be heard.

Call on MEPs to block the European Commission’s proposal to identify EDCs that leaves us vulnerable to unregulated chemicals.

EDC’s are linked to hormone-related cancers, birth defects, and other serious developmental disorders.

Besides requiring a level of proof to identify a chemical as an EDC that is way too high, the text proposed by the European Commission also foresees unacceptable exemptions. Moreover, it is limited to endocrine disruptors in pesticides and biocides, while these toxic substances hide everywhere –- from our cosmetics and food packaging, to medical devices used in hospitals.

Nearly half a million SumOfUs members and supporters of the EDC-Free Europe coalition have been standing up to the dangerous EU commission proposal on regulating these chemicals already.

It’s time to channel that same energy and remind MEPs from all over Europe that they should put the health and voices of citizens like you before the interests of Bayer and Monsanto lobbyists.

Call on the Members of the European Parliament (MEPs) to listen to the facts and reject the Commission’s dangerous proposal for endocrine disrupters.

While companies like Monsanto make money off of them, EDCs cost society an estimated 163 billion euros per year in Europe.

But the agrochemical industry is trying to drown out the voices of concerned scientists, public health experts and citizens, with an army of lobbyists in Brussels.

SumOfUs and EDC-Free Europe coalition members have already achieved major victories in the fight against toxic products in Europe. Because we keep coming together to take action, the renewal of toxic pesticides like glyphosate keeps being postponed.

Now, it’s time to pool our efforts once again to remind MEPs to put public health before the profits of Monsanto and Bayer.

We don’t have a moment to lose — the decisive vote will be held in Parliament in just a couple of weeks!

Tell our MEPs to prioritise citizens’ voices over corporate interests and to protect us all from the real dangers of endocrine disruptors.

Endocrine Disruptors
An Investigation
  1. The Manufacture of a Lie.
  2. A Denial of the State of the Science.
  3. The Interference of the United States.
  4. The Discreet but Major Gift to the Pesticides Lobby.

Coalition of more than 70 NGOs call on EU Parliament to reject EDC criteria

EDC-Free Europe coalition, Press Release, July 4, 2017

Brussels, 4 July 2017 – Today, representatives of European member states from the EU pesticides committee adopted the criteria that are supposed to be used to identify endocrine disrupting chemicals (or EDCs) in the future.

The EDC-Free coalition regrets the insufficiency of the criteria adopted today, which will not guarantee the level of protection for human health and the environment that is urgently needed and that scientists and citizens are calling for from across the EU. Ahead of the vote, three highly respected international scientific societies of endocrinology raised the alarm bell about the shortcomings of the proposed criteria, urging member states not to approve them in their current state. Meanwhile, over 458,000 people all across Europe signed a petition calling on member states to reject the EU Commission’s proposal.

The main concerns of the EDC-Free coalition are as follows:

  • The criteria require a very high burden of proof, which makes the identification of substances as EDCs very difficult and is likely to result in long delays.
  • The proposed exemption from identification for certain pesticides and biocides that are designed to be endocrine disrupting would strongly undermine the objective of the EU pesticides and biocides law to phase out the use of EDCs.
  • The criteria contradict the EU commitment to horizontal EDC criteria and minimisation of EDC exposures as decided in the 7th Environmental Action Programme.

“Strong EDC criteria would allow Europe to lead the world by example and to initiate urgently needed measures to reduce our unnecessary exposure to toxic substances. The criteria voted today contain a flawed loophole and require such a high level of proof that they will not protect people or wildlife. We call on the European Parliament to reject these criteria”

says Genon K. Jensen,
EDC-Free Europe spokesperson.

While Sweden and Denmark defended an ambitious approach to protect human health and the environment until the final vote, the EDC-Free Europe coalition regrets the last-minute change of position of France, which is in total contradiction to the electoral promises of Emmanuel Macron and promises made in the run up to the vote. The overall lack of foresight/vision of EU member states will result in significant costs for public health and society. A conservative estimate found that the current burden on public health budgets from the diseases arising from exposure to EDCs in the European Union is estimated to be at least 163 billion Euro per year.

Read NGOs acknowledge vote on first ever EDC criteria – call on European Parliament to reject flawed criteria for the sake of human health and environment protection, edc-free-europe, July 4, 2017.

An Investigation
  1. The Manufacture of a Lie.
  2. A Denial of the State of the Science.
  3. The Interference of the United States.
  4. The Discreet but Major Gift to the Pesticides Lobby.
Endocrine Disruptors

Identification of EDCs : people and the environment must be protected without delay

Further delay on flawed EDC criteria maintains unnecessary risks on human health and the environment

Brussels, 18 May 2017 – The criteria to identify hormone disrupting chemicals (or EDCs), for which a decision was expected today, continue to cause disagreements among EU member states.

The EDC-Free coalition urges the European Commission and member states to amend the proposal to ensure that people and the environment are protected and warns that further delays and failure to agree on criteria unnecessarily keep human health at risk.

The coalition has repeatedly criticised that the current proposal requires an unrealistically high burden of proof, which makes the identification of substances as EDCs very difficult and is likely to result in long delays. Another significant loophole is the proposed exemption from identification for certain pesticides and biocides that are designed to be endocrine disrupting, which would strongly undermine protective measures. The EDC-Free coalition also cautions the Commission and member states against industry’s proposals to introduce a derogation based on risk assessment in the pesticides regulation, which would result in continuous exposure of people and the environment to mixtures of toxic pesticides.

After years of setbacks and delays, in June 2016 the European Commission proposed a set of criteria, which have gone through several versions and been the subject of lengthy criticism and controversy. This followed a ruling of the EU Court of Justice, which found that the European Commission breached EU laws by delaying the adoption of measures on EDC criteria.

“The science is clear about the harmful and irreversible effects of endocrine disrupting chemicals. The time for action is now and Europe has the opportunity to lead by example. Protective EDC criteria are needed to reduce people’s exposure to toxic substances and reduce unnecessary burdens on public budgets,”

says Genon K. Jensen, EDC-Free Europe spokesperson.

Scientific professionals and public interest groups such as non-profit health insurers alike have consistently called for the swift adoption of high quality, scientifically sound criteria to accelerate actions to reduce peoples’ exposure to EDCs. Meanwhile over 359,000 citizens have signed a petition calling on member states to take action to ban EDCs.

The failure to minimise exposure to EDCs will maintain a high burden on public health budgets from the diseases arising from exposure to EDCs in the European Union (which is estimated at 163 billion Euro per year). As it stands, it is also a perfect counter-example of the better regulation approach that the Commission has made its motto of.

The EDC-Free coalition calls on the European Commission and member states to amend the proposal so that EDC exposure can be swiftly reduced and environment and health will be protected.

Natacha Cingotti, EDC-Free Europe, a coalition of more than 70 environmental, health, women’s and consumer groups across Europe who share a concern about endocrine disrupting chemicals (EDCs) and their impact on our health and wildlife. EDC-Free Europe is a coalition of more than 70 environmental, health, women’s and consumer groups across Europe who share a concern about endocrine disrupting chemicals (EDCs) and their impact on our health and wildlife.

Endocrine Disruptors

Pregnant? How to protect your child from harmful chemicals

Unborn children and kids should be protected from EDCs

SUGGESTIONS

Say NO to EDCs, STOP Hormone Disruptors!

Join EDC-Free Europe campaign to STOP Endocrine-Disrupting Chemicals!

Tell President Juncker, the Head of the European Commission and his 27 Commissioners that you want them to protect our health and stop our exposure to hormone disrupting chemicals, also known as endocrine disrupting chemicals (EDCs).

On 15 June EU Commissioners will finally decide on the criteria to identify these chemicals. This decision was delayed by fierce lobbying from the chemicals and pesticides industries, a delay which has now been judged illegal by the EU Court of Justice.

Hormone disrupting chemicals can interfere with natural hormones, the chemical messengers of our bodies. Scientific studies show that these chemicals are very likely contributing to the increases in hormone-related diseases such as breast or testicular cancer, fertility problems, diabetes and obesity as well as learning and behavioural problems in children.

Please join us in sending a strong message to the Commissioners that they should choose the best option to protect public health – See option three from 2013 EU public consultation on EDCs.

Existing EU laws that are designed to stop the use of these chemicals and reduce our exposure can only work if ALL hormone disrupting chemicals are properly identified on the basis of the latest science.

Our everyday exposure to these chemicals must stop in order to protect the health of current and future generations.

Say NO to hormone disrupting chemicals!

Suggestions

What are EDCs?

Join EDC-Free Europe campaign to STOP Hormone Disruptors!

Mr Juncker, we are exposed to hormone disrupting chemicals every day. How will you protect our health?

Image sources: EDC Free Eurpe blog and graphic.

Suggestions

Pesticides industry chief: Commission should move faster on endocrine disruptors

“The process of regulating chemical substances has already been taking too long”

Content on this post is produced by EurActiv.com
Jean-Charles Bocquet, director general of the European Crop Protection Association (ECPA)., answered questions by EurActiv‘s Henriette Jacobsen.

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The European Commission’s public consultation on endocrine disruptors is one positive step in a process of regulating chemical substances which has already been taking too long, says Jean-Charles Bocquet.

What do you think of the Commission’s public consultation on endocrine disruptors? Are you happy with the process?

If we talk about the consultation itself, it’s a good thing. When talking about the whole process, we’re concerned because it’s too slow. It has already been delayed and the timeline for a definition of endocrine disruptors has not been respected. We are in an uncertain situation. It makes a lot of unclarity for the evaluators at the EFSA (the European Food Safety Authority) level, for the risk managers, the member states and of course also for our members. The sooner the criteria is established and validated, the better it will be.

Contrary to what some NGOs think, we have not worked to slowdown the process.

You would prefer stringent criteria adopted fast rather than the opposite?

No. Since the current regulation was adopted, we have been fighting hard against the so-called hazard criteria. Until now, all our products were risk-based evaluated. That means that every technology including natural products can come under the label ‘hazard’. Based on the use, crops and the amount, there is an exposure which is big or low and if we combine the hazard with the exposure, then the risk manager can say that we can put the product on the market based on this. Europe is the only place in the world where we have this approach now.

Does this also include minimum residue levels for pesticides?

Yes, and this issue will become hotter this year due to the TTIP (Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership) negotiations. Endocrine disruptors and TTIP can be linked due to the residue levels. We don’t want them to be linked too much, but some people want them to be linked.

People from the Commission?

No, the new Commission in fact has a new way of looking at things. Our understanding is that they prefer to check and be sure that the current regulation is working. If it’s not working, they want to make it work before they consider new regulation.

Before the new Commission took office we thought that the current regulation, which really hasn’t been working yet, would be revised as soon as possible. Now, if the Commission says it’s better to really make the current regulation work, then that’s a fine idea.

But the public consultation is taking place to update the regulation, right?

The consultation is specific to endocrine disruptors. The problem with it is that it’s not a general public consultation. In fact, you do need a little bit of knowledge about the file. This is more for experts. This topic really is the hot topic of the coming months and we have of course been contributing to the consultation. As one of many important stakeholders in this debate, we take the issue of endocrine disruptors seriously. We welcome a vigorous, informative and reasonable public dialogue to fully consider the consequences of the criteria for endocrine disruption.

These criteria will be used to regulate endocrine disruptors in sector-specific chemicals legislation, such as for general chemicals, biocides and pesticides. The application of these criteria could have significant consequences for consumers, agriculture and trade. That’s why the public consultation is so vital to the process.

Our position is that the EU’s criteria should evaluate endocrine active substances based on risk assessment, considering both hazard and exposure, and that the final criteria should clearly distinguish those substances that are of high regulatory concern from those that are not.

The number of active substances available for the industry to use has consistently been reduced due to regulation…

Not only because of the regulation, but also because of us. In the 1990s, we had around 1,000 substances available on the European market. Today, the number is 250 because regarding 60-70% of the substances, we have decided not to maintain them as we knew they would be technically outdated and we would have better solutions for the farmers. Then we had 80 substances where we were trying to renew them, but this was not accepted due to risk concerns. At the same time, on top of the 250 substances, 150 new substances have been developed.

So we have 400 substances now, and they are generally safer. They represent less risk and really answer our needs as consumers and citizens. With the new regulation on endocrine disruptors, our guess is that between 50 to 60 substances can again disappear, knowing that all the current 400 will have to go through the screening again.

Have you identified those 50-60 substances?

Yes, and among those potential ones, there are ones which are bringing technical solutions that are very useful for the farmers and we don’t really have alternative solutions available yet. This could result in substances disappearing from the market so that, for example, wheat production, which is an important crop in Europe, can be negatively impacted.

We want an approach that is really pragmatic, based on use.

The 50-60 substances that you think could be taken off the market… Is this something the industry is already taking for granted and already phasing out? Do you agree that the risk may too high for some of them?

Today, based on the knowledge available and on the current risk-benefit analysis, which has been done, there’s no obvious reason. We potentially have some insecticides which have been largely used, with a lot of benefits, which could disappear.

We have been bringing new families, new benefits, more targeted and environmental-friendly products to the market. Of course we can always do more. This is what our research and development teams are working on. But for a product, we need more than ten years before bringing them to the market. We cannot make those changes in a split second.

The number of products reaching the market is declining because companies are not taking risks when there are so many discussions on criteria profile to continue to push for them being on the market.

The concern is still about the products in the pipeline or those already on the market. It’s more and more complicated to find new product families. If we rely too much on the same product families, the risk of resistance will be increased, and then the farmers won’t be able to control the problem.

I’m guessing you are trying to meet with Commissioner Frans Timmermans, the First Vice-President responsible for Better Regulation. Are you telling the Commission to drop this legislation?

No. We have looked at impact assessments from the beginning so that we remain consistent. What we just want is an acceleration of the process. We don’t know yet what the outcome will be.

What will be the desirable outcome from your point of view?

The desirable outcome for us would be that before taking the decision to exclude a substance, they go through a risk-benefit analysis which is not the case today from the current regulation. If you have classified a substance as an endocrine disruptor, whatever the criteria is, because they are still being discussed, then it will be dropped.

Do you think the Commission is listening to this argument?

With the new Commission, I don’t know. But there were different opinions in the previous different Commission units.

The new Commission has a new approach which is more centralised, which could help making your point, no?

We have not yet had the opportunity to really… We have had a meeting in one of the cabinets, but it was more like an introductory meeting.

Impact assessments are being reviewed at the Commission with a more systematic cost-benefit analysis being considered. You must see this as going in the right direction, no?

In principle, of course it goes in the right direction. This is for the future. But for today and for the endocrine disruptors, the fight has already been quite emotional that I can’t imagine that this impact assessment will continue to the end and then stop.

On the other hand, we’re not interested in stopping it because that would keep it in the grey area. We are really happy that the public consultation will close on Friday.

The impact assessment, I believe, has already started and some input will be used from the public consultation to make the final proposal of the criteria which will be discussed by the Council and Parliament. The only concern we have is the planning, because we don’t expect the criteria to be agreed by the Commission, Parliament and Council before the end of 2016. It’s not going to be tomorrow. In the meantime, the debate will continue. – 16/01/2015.

Health NGO: Endocrine disruptors are one of the biggest public health threats of this century

Génon K. Jensen, Director of HEAL, answers questions posed by Henriette Jacobsen, EurActiv

Content on this post is produced by EurActiv.com
Génon K. Jensen, director of the not-for-profit organisation Health and Environment Alliance (HEAL), answered questions by EurActiv‘s Henriette Jacobsen.

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Although hormone-disrupting chemicals are recognised as a global public health threat by the World Health Organization (WHO), the European Commission’s public consultation on the matter, is only meant to delay action and regulation, argues Génon K. Jensen.

What does HEAL think of the concept of the Commission’s endocrine disruptors consultation?

The consultation is only one part of a larger impact assessment process, which has been introduced to delay action on endocrine-disrupting chemicals to protect public health.

HEAL believes it to be strange to hold a public consultation, and even an impact assessment, on the scientific criteria for the identification of endocrine disruptors when the Commission has spent years obtaining scientific work and advice on this subject: for example, the Kortenkamp report contracted by the Commission; the two-year long Expert Advisory Group on endocrine disrupting chemicals, which included member state experts, NGO experts and industry experts, and which resulted in a report by the EU’s own Joint Research Centre; and even the European Food Safety Authority’s (EFSA) opinion.

The fact that we are having an impact assessment at all is already testament to the influence the pesticides and chemicals industry have on the Commission.

It was already democratically agreed by 28 member states in 2009 and 2011 through the Parliament and the Council to remove these endocrine-disrupting pesticides and biocides, because of the risks of diseases and environmental problems generated by these products, which are widely dispersed and end up in our food, air, water and bodies. The laws agreed foresee exemptions to these bans when, for example, there is a serious danger to plant health.

So a broad agreement has been reached, but it seems the pesticides and chemical industries deliberately ignore it and keep fighting the same old battle.

What are your views on endocrine disruptors? Have you made your views heard during the consultation?

Endocrine disruptors are one of the biggest public health threats of this and possibly the next centuries, maybe on par with global climate destabilisation. The World Health Organization (WHO) and UNEP say they are a global threat to health and the environment that needs to be resolved as soon as possible.

We believe that systematically reducing exposures to endocrine-disrupting chemicals provides a massive opportunity to prevent many chronic diseases, such as hormonal cancers (of breast, prostate, and testicles), diabetes and obesity, learning disabilities and attention deficit disorder, and fertility problems. So it’s imperative that all endocrine-disrupting chemicals are properly identified. To this end, we believe the WHO definition, in combination with three categories that rank the endocrine disrupting chemicals according to the strength of the scientific evidence, is the single best way to proceed. It’s the same way that we identify chemicals that cause cancer, gene mutations or that are toxic to reproduction.

With respect to the different regulatory approaches in the consultation, HEAL does not think that making post-jure changes to the democratically agreed existing pesticides and biocides laws, which already allow for exceptions in case of need, is acceptable. Firstly, because the changes being considered would not be subject to a fully democratic legislative process, the way the pesticides and biocides laws were decided, and secondly because either of the two options (B or C) would essentially build a different escape hatch for hormone disrupting pesticides and biocides, which we had already, as a society, agreed must be phased out – unless they qualify for the already agreed exemptions built into the laws!

We have made our views known on the criteria, and insofar as the slanted format of the consultation allowed it, on the importance of the societal, environmental and health benefits that would come from properly identifying endocrine disrupting chemicals and proceeding with their phase out as agreed in the 2009 and 2011 laws.

HEAL and many other NGOs in the endocrine-disrupting chemicals-free Europe coalition, known as “EDC-Free Europe”, have facilitated the voices of a large number of citizens across Europe on this. So far over 18,000 people have also asked for use the three categories with the WHO definition, and for no change in the existing laws and exemptions.

What do you expect will come out of the Commission’s consultation?

We hope that the Commission will not be able to deny the political significance of (so far) over 18,000 people who have used our online platform to say it’s time to stop hormone disrupting chemicals from contaminating our environment and harming our health.

In the past, industry has greatly exaggerated the costs to their business, using models that are too static and limited. The agricultural industry has miscalculated the impact on farming yields by using bogus baselines, ignored or underestimated the benefits of adaptation, and so on. This has been detailed in the new report Predicted costs by industry in the face of new environmental regulations.

The Commission should conclude that we must systematically reduce our exposures to endocrine disrupting chemicals and phase out their uses – something which will help prevent cancer, diabetes, obesity and infertility and can be an enormous catalyst for innovation and improvement because it will stimulate safer, healthier products and environments.

How many endocrine disrupting substances are a priority to you?

All those that are contaminating our bodies, our babies before birth, our breast milk and our environment.

HEAL supported and participated in the WWF human biomonitoring of three generations in Europe in 2005, and they found an average of at least 73 synthetic chemicals in the bodies of those tested. In the US, biomonitoring has found an average of 200 chemicals and contaminants already in newborns. Not all may be endocrine-disrupting chemicals, even though they are still hazardous and may interact with endocrine-disrupting chemicals to exert cocktail effects.

Commission First Vice-President Frans Timmermans is also in charge of ‘better regulation’ and cutting red tape. Do you fear that regulation on endocrine disruptors could be one of the areas that he would consider scrapping?

Junker and Timmermans have stressed many times that they want the Commission to make a fresh start and bring the EU closer to citizens again.

Protection against exposure to endocrine disruptors is a key issue for people all over Europe. Consider for example the thousands of people in Germany using an app to detect endocrine disrupting chemicals in consumer products, the pregnant women in Denmark who consult a guide on endocrine-disrupting chemicals and how to avoid them, and the huge numbers of others throughout Europe who feel it necessary to empty food from plastic packaging before heating or microwaving.

The Parliament has made it abundantly clear they’re expecting the EU to act to reduce harm from endocrine disrupting chemicals. in December, nine EU member states – including Denmark, Germany, France and others – launched an initiative to urge the Commission to act. Several member states are frontrunners in adopting laws to phase out endocrine-disrupting chemicals in products.

Surely Timmermans doesn’t want to ignore all these concerns?

In addition, a recent assessment on cutting red tape in Europe by the High Level Group on Administrative Burdens found that environmental regulation accounts for less than 1% of the total administrative burden, with regulations in the areas of taxation/customs and annual accounts having a much higher toll.

We therefore hope that Timmermans will share our view that regulation on endocrine-disrupting chemicals is not only crucial to protect public health but also can actually be a driver for innovation towards less harmful chemicals. After all, he is also in charge of sustainable development in the EU. ”  – 16/01/2015.

Not in my Food!

Did you tell regulators that we prefer EDC-free meals?

EDCs-cartoon
Watch @DES_Journal diaporama and health comics album on Flickr. Image via @EuropePAN

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