Europeans will remain exposed to Bisphenol A in food packaging

MEPs reject ban on BPA in food packaging, Brussels, 11th January 2018

A European Commission proposal to regulate bisphenol A in food contact materials was discussed today in the European Parliament Environment Committee (ENVI). The Health and Environment Alliance (HEAL) regrets that Members (MEPs) gave the green light to a piece of legislation that fails to protect citizens’ health and will mainly benefit the chemical industry.

The European Commission regulation foresees to simply lower the migration limit rather than ban bisphenol A in the coatings and varnishes used in food packaging. This contradicts the European Parliament’s own 2016 demand to fully ban bisphenol A from food contact materials [3].

Bisphenol A has been listed as a substance of very high concern (SVHC) by the European Chemicals Agency due to its endocrine disrupting properties , and it is also classified as toxic for reproduction. HEAL alongside numerous civil society groups have long demanded its full ban, because exposure to even very low doses can have serious long-term health impacts.

Commenting on the outcome of the vote, Natacha Cingotti, HEAL’s policy officer on health and chemicals, said:

“The adverse health effects of Bisphenol A, even at low doses, are so well documented that it should already have been banned from all consumer products a long time ago – citizens shouldn’t have to worry that their food wrapper or packing contains BPA and might seep into their food and harm their health.”

“European politicians are failing in their responsibility to protect people’s health and to act on their earlier commitments, although safer alternatives are available and some governments such as France and industry retailers are already on the path to substitution. It’s not only dangerous but also incoherent – we should be getting the toxics out of the economy if we want it to be truly circular.”

HEAL has repeatedly called on European decision-makers to take steps to fix the loopholes that currently exist in terms of the evaluation and regulation of chemicals in food packages, and will continue to promote more ambitious action to protect Europeans – in particular vulnerable groups – as a formal evaluation of the European legislation on food contact materials is about to start.

Addressing endocrine disrupting chemicals requires an integrated strategy

It is time to disrupt business as usual and put the health of the current and future generations first

The dangers of endocrine disrupting chemicals (EDCs) for human health and the environment have long been documented and the evidence keeps piling up every day, yet Europe’s approach to this challenge has been lukewarm, writes Genon Jensen, he Executive Director of Health and Environment Alliance (HEAL).

From bisphenol A to cadmium or a whole variety of pesticides, we are all exposed to EDCs. However, as the debacle on the identification criteria of endocrine disruptors for pesticides illustrates, the European approach to this emerging challenge lacks ambition. Not only does it fail to follow the latest scientific developments, but also to acknowledge the societal demands for a transition to safer alternatives.

On 4 July, a European Commission proposal for criteria to identify endocrine disrupting chemicals for pesticides was agreed by representatives of EU governments – the end of a four-year process.

For health and environment advocates, scientists, or public interest groups such as health professionals or non-profit insurers, these criteria have a bitter and toxic taste. Leaving aside the significant corporate lobbying interference in the process, one is struck by the health and economic burden that a lack of ambition and political will result in for society.

According to a conservative estimate, diseases arising from exposure to EDCs weigh at least €163 billion on European public health budgets.

Meanwhile, urine tests and hair samples from populations all across Europe show the presence of chemicals that should not be there in people’s bodies: for instance, a study carried out in France in 2015 found no less than 21 endocrine disruptors’ residues per women tested, including toxic chemicals that have been banned from the market.

Keeping these numbers in mind, addressing the emerging challenges posed by the exposition to endocrine disruptors across their uses (beyond pesticides, from cosmetics to food packages, or toys) based on precaution and consistency appears both an urgent and obvious need.

Unfortunately, the criteria agreed are narrow, insufficient, impractical, and they will make it very difficult – if not impossible – to prove that a pesticide is disrupting the endocrine system.

Why does this matter? Because the higher the burden of the proof and the bigger the loopholes in the identification criteria, the longer the products will remain on the market, leaving people exposed to their effects and weighing heavily on public health budgets.

What should be done now?

The battle over the identification criteria for pesticides is not completely over yet. After the summer, the European Parliament will be asked to vote on the European Commission proposal – either to sign it off or to veto it.

This is an important opportunity for MEPs to echo the existing concerns, give a voice to almost 500,000 citizens who have asked for more protective criteria without being heard. Therefore, MEPs should reject the current criteria and defend an ambitious approach that reflects the latest state of science.

Traces of endocrine disrupting chemicals are found everywhere, including in our bodies, which means that we are all concerned by their effects. The Endocrine Disruption Exchange lists about 1,300 potential EDCs, and many more suspected substances need to be investigated.

While scientists and public interest groups are doing their share to address this emerging challenge, decision-makers should have the courage to take political steps that are already available. This can start in the European Parliament with the rejection of the flawed pesticides criteria.

It is time to disrupt business as usual and put the health of the current and future generations first.

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

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

Thirty people tested discover the omnipresence of Glyphosate in their bodies

French NGO Générations Futures finds 100% people tested in France are exposed to glyphosate

To what extent are the French exposed to glyphosate – the world’s best-selling herbicide? generations-futures, 6 April 2017.

Image © credit Claire Robert.

Paris/Brussels, 6 April 2017 – Thirty human “guinea-pigs” entrusted samples of their urine to Générations Futures for testing for traces of the famous glyphosate, one of the active molecules in the herbicide, RoundUp®.

The results? All 100% of the samples contain residues of this herbicide, which is a “probable carcinogen” according to the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC).

Context

Glyphosate is the world’s most widely used active ingredient in herbicides. In March 2015, a few months before the European authorisation of glyphosate was due to expire, experts at the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) classified glyphosate as a “probable human carcinogen”. EU regulations prohibit the use of pesticides that are classified as carcinogens or probable carcinogens. However, EU regulations refer to EU classification for carcinogenicity not to that of IARC.

Originally, when the authorisation of glyphosate expired, the European Commission proposed allowing its sale for a further 14 years. But this proposition, which was widely criticised by NGOs and civil society, did not receive the support of the Member States. In the end, the Commission was obliged to extend the approval for only 18 months and the European Chemicals Agency (ECHA) was asked to publish an opinion on the safety of glyphosate the spring of this year. On 15 March 2017, a summary of this opinion was published clearing glyphosate of any carcinogenic risk for humans! The ball is now in the European Commission’s court as it will soon make a new proposal to the Member States.

The survey

It is against this backdrop that Générations Futures wanted to learn more about the extent to which the French are exposed to this widely used herbicide. We chose to carry out a urine analysis of 30 people, including men and women between the ages of eight and 60 years old, living in the city and in the countryside and with a varied diet, organic and non-organic, vegetarian and non-vegetarian. A certain number of well-known people agreed to participate. Analysis was carried out with help of an ELISA test.

Results?

Our investigation demonstrates the omnipresence of this dangerous molecule in our bodies.

  • 100% of the samples analysed contained glyphosate at a concentration above the lowest limit of quantification (LoQ = 0.075ng/ml).
  • The average concentration of glyphosate found in the samples was 1.25 ng/ml urine.
  • The sample with the lowest value was at 0.09 ng/ml and the highest value was 2.89 ng/ml, which is 32.11 times higher than the lowest value.
  • Twenty-nine of the 30 samples (96.66%) contained concentrations that were above the maximum allowable pesticide concentration in water (0.1 ng/ml).

“Unfortunately, these tests confirmed what we feared having consulted surveys undertaken elsewhere in Europe and around the world: we are all contaminated with glyphosate. It is indeed time for the European authorities to become aware of the urgency to act, and to finally forbid this molecule considered likely to be carcinogenic to humans by the International Agency for Research on Cancer!”

says Francois Veillerette, spokesperson for Générations Futures.

“Not all the cards are played yet. We can still stop the authorisation of this substance. We therefore invite citizens to take action and join the 500,000 Europeans who have already signed the European Citizens’ Initiative calling for the banning of this dangerous molecule,”

he concludes.

The Health and Environment Alliance (HEAL) is also calling for a ban on glyphosate. Génon K. Jensen, Executive Director at the Health and Environment Alliance (HEAL) says:

“This study shows that all those tested in France have been exposed to glyphosate. This means that, in all likelihood, all Europeans are contaminated – potentially elevating everyone’s risk of cancer. “The evidence against glyphosate is piling up all the time. National governments face the decision at the end of this year whether to continue allowing glyphosate in Europe. We urge everyone to tell their governments to put preventing cancers first.”

Contacts
Générations Fuures EXPPERT Surveys
  1. EXPPERT Survey 1: Which endocrine disrupting insecticides are children exposed to everyday? Press release, Brussels, 25 March 2013.
  2. EXPPERT Survey 2: Endocrine Disrupting Chemicals and banned Pesticides in strawberries. Press release, 25 March 2013.
  3. EXPPERT Survey 3: How are children exposed to Endocrine Disrupting Chemicals?Press release, 9 July 2014.
  4. EXPPERT Survey 4: Nineteen endocrine disrupting pesticides found in samples of women’s hair. Press release, 12 March 2015. Our blog.
  5. EXPPERT Survey 5: Pesticides that are banned or suspected to be EDCs are found in green salads. Press release, 22 September 2015. Our blog.
  6. EXPPERT Survey 6: Homes close to pesticide spraying show all year exposure. Press release, 1 March 2016. Our blog.
  7. EXPPERT Survey 7: Exposure to endocrine-disrupting pesticides. What are the exposures in daily life? Press release, 11 October 2016. Our blog.
  8. EXPPERT Survey 8: Exposure to endocrine-disrupting pesticides in water. Press release, 8 January 2017. Our blog.
  9. EXPPERT Survey 9: Seven French celebrities discover their contamination from endocrine disruptors. Press release, 24 February 2017. Our blog.

Highly toxic mercury and its compounds to be banned in children, pregnant and breastfeeding women’s dental amalgam

EU agrees dental amalgam ban in children, pregnant and breastfeeding women

Mercury and its compounds are highly toxic to humans, especially to pregnant women and the developing nervous system. Amalgam consists of 50% mercury, which under certain conditions can transform to neurotoxic methylmercury.

Brussels, 8 December 2016 – European civil society has endorsed this week’s provisional agreement by the three EU institutions (European Parliament, European Commission and the Council of the European Union) to ban dental amalgam fillings for children under 15 and for pregnant and breastfeeding women as of 1 July 2018.

The text, which must now be approved by both Parliament and Council, also requires each Member State to set a national plan by 1 July 2019 on how it will reduce amalgam use. The Commission will report by mid-2020 on the feasibility of phasing out dental amalgam preferably by 2030 to be accompanied by a legislative proposal, if appropriate. The action is part of a broader package to ratify and implement the Minamata Convention on Mercury.

“The children of Europe have won. The next generation in Europe will be safe from mercury dental fillings.”

said Charlie Brown, President of the World Alliance for Mercury-Free Dentistry.

“With this agreement Europe takes an important step towards returning to world leadership in implementing the Minamata Convention. These steps towards a phase out of dental amalgam will now resonate across the world.”

said Elena Lymberidi-Settimo of the European Environment Bureau.

“Amalgam is a primitive polluting device. It is technically inferior to today’s modern alternatives. Dentistry’s amalgam era is over, a fact embraced enthusiastically by thousands of European dentists and accepted by the others.”

said U.K. dentist Graeme Munro-Hall, chair of the Transition and Training task force of the World Alliance for Mercury-Free Dentistry.

“We welcome this agreement with mixed feelings. Such a decision should not only lead to a reduction of mercury in the EU, but it is also an open acknowledgement that mercury fillings should not have a place in our society. We regret that the measures for a full phase out of dental amalgam proposed by Stefan Eck (Rapporteur), did not survive the trilogue discussion. It is a missed opportunity to actually reduce the largest presence of mercury in the EU at its very source: dental amalgam.”

said Philippe Vandendaele of Health Care Without Harm Europe.

“This partial ban on dental amalgams is excellent news, especially for children’s health. It will not only help protect the health of mothers and children but also contribute to reducing everyone’s environmental exposure to mercury. Several Member States either disallow amalgam use or have already reduced it to less than 10% of all dental fillings. We hope each Member States will now take seriously its duty to reduce amalgam use for everyone.”

said Genon Jensen of Health and Environmental Alliance.

More Information

Launch of the European Human Biomonitoring Initiative

The HBM4EU consortium included lead partners from each of the participating countries, as well as the EEA

A conference to launch the “European Human Biomonitoring Initiative” (HBM4EU) took place on 8 December 2016 in Brussels. It was followed by a half-day stakeholders meeting on 9 December.

HBM4EU is a joint effort of 26 countries and the European Commission, co-funded by Horizon 2020, to coordinate and advance human biomonitoring (HBM) activities in Europe. The stated aim is “to provide better evidence in support of policy making”.

The launch event introduced the initiative and presented some of the key activities to be undertaken. Long-standing HBM activities from programmes outside the European Union, including US, Canada and Japan, were be presented to give participants a perspective on how the EU project fits into the international landscape.

Launch of EU human biomonitoring initiative, env-health, 8 December 2016.

Although 26 countries are involved, biomonitoring will take place in 25 countries, including 22 EU members and three non-members. They are Austria, Belgium, Croatia, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Finland, Germany, Greece, Iceland, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, United Kingdom. Information on the national organisations participating in the consortium can be found here.

The nine substance groupings that will be the focus of the European Human Biomonitoring Initiative in the first two years (2017-2018) are:

  • phthalates and Hexamoll® DINCH,
  • bisphenols,
  • per-/polyfluorinated compounds,
  • flame retardants,
  • cadmium and chromium,
  • PAHs,
  • aniline family,
  • chemical mixtures,
  • and emerging substances.

A half-day technical consultation took place the following day. It will be the first in a series of more in-depth discussions with stakeholders that accompanies annual work plans. Génon Jensen, HEAL Executive Director spoke at the introductory session on the project and its stakeholder process on: “Human biomonitoring to inform and empower citizens”. This main session was followed by break-out groups on research and stakeholder expectations.

HEAL has become the informal coordinator on human biomonitoring for NGOs working on chemicals because of our long involvement in promoting human biomonitoring for better health and environmental policy. In 2006, HEAL undertook a small-scale biomonitoring programme on mercury, which resulted in health moving to the centre of international discussions on mercury.

More Information

  • The role of human biomonitoring in assessing and managing chemical risks, eea.europa.eu.
  • The initial prioritisation exercise and selected substances, eea.europa.eu.

Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership: Private Profit v. Public Health

Join the campaign to remove chemicals from the EU-US trade talks

The Health and Environment Alliance (HEAL) and the Center for International Environmental Law (CIEL) are today launching a campaign call via a new website and Twitter account. The campaign aims to ensure that the EU-US trade talks do not undermine EU chemicals legislation.

The United States and European Union are negotiating a new trade agreement called the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP). This agreement is a threat to the EU’s ability to protect people from toxic chemical exposure.

EU legislation is currently much more protective than US regulations. If chemicals are included in this trade deal, the EU could see its global leadership in protecting public health through tough laws like REACH watered down. In addition to pesticide legislation, TTIP could halt the EU’s progress on a policy to limit exposure to hormone disrupting chemicals.

What we want

The European Parliament has said that toxic chemicals should have no place in the TTIP negotiations. We agree and are calling for:

  1. Chemicals to be excluded from regulatory cooperation because it would provide new channels for private profit to hold power in the drafting or revision of EU laws.
  2. No elements of the controversial EU policy “Better Regulation” embedded in a legally binding trade agreement.
  3. No provisions enabling multinationals to sideline the EU courts and sue European states, the so-called Investor State Dispute Settlement (ISDS) or Investment Court System.What we’re already doing
    Today, at the start of the 13th TTIP round, HEAL, CIEL, the European Environmental Bureau and ClientEarth wrote to EU Trade Commissioner Cecilia Malmström to ask her to ensure that no elements of the increasingly controversial EU ‘Better Regulation’ agenda are codified in this legally-binding trade agreement. See Re: Call to exclude the ‘Good Regulatory Practices’ chapter from TTIP letter.
We need YOU!

We hope to bring together not-for-profit organisations to support our campaign, in particular those working in the areas of:

  • Public health
  • The environment
  • Trade
  • Toxic chemicals and pesticides
  • Cancer
  • Biodiversity (including those NGOs protecting bee populations)
  • Women’s and children’s rights
  • Not-for-profit health insurance organisations.
Contacts

A new campaign to protect EU chemical laws, HEAL, 25 April 2016.

Génon K. Jensen, Executive Director, Health and Environment Alliance, Email, Tel: +32 2 234 36 40.

Lisette van Vliet, Senior Advisor, Chemicals & Chronic Disease Prevention, Health & Environment Alliance, Email, Tel: +32 2 234 36 45.

David Azoulay, Program Director, Center for International Environmental Law (CIEL), Email, Tel: +41 22 789 05 00.

Aleksandra Terzieva, Campaign Coordinator, Center for International Environmental Law (CIEL), Email, Tel: +32 471 93 17 08.

EDCs Regulation: Now is the Time to put this Right, EU Commission!

Endocrine disruptors: ‘Better Regulation’ or better public health?

Endocrine disruptors pose a substantial risk to public health, yet the European Commission has dawdled time and again on introducing measures that would finally limit their use. Now is the time to put this right, write Genon Jensen, Director of HEAL, and Michael Warhurst, Executive Director of CHEM Trust.

pesticide-use-farming image
EDC-use in pesticides is a major health concern. Will Fuller: “I also noticed that the driver was wearing a mask on one of his trips round,. surely if he feels the need to protect himself he should reconsider spraying right outside our front door”.

Endocrine disruptors: ‘Better Regulation’ or better public health?, EurActiv, Mar 2, 2016.

Over twenty years ago, scientists began to be concerned about chemicals that could disrupt our body’s sensitive hormone (or endocrine) system, which are particularly crucial in development and reproduction, also known as endocrine disrupting chemicals (EDCs). In spite of the fact that chemicals with these properties are found in everyday products, the EU still has not agreed the criteria to identify such EDC chemicals.

Without such criteria the people of Europe – and our environment – are not being properly protected and concerns continue to mount in medical and cancer communities and among leading global endocrine experts.

EU legislation on controlling the use of pesticides and biocides stated that the European Commission should determine these scientific criteria for EDC identification by December 2013. Due to the Commission’s failure to publish criteria by that deadline, Sweden launched a legal challenge in the European Court of Justice.

Its December 2015 verdict stated that the executive was in breach of EU law and that the criteria to determine endocrine disrupting properties can only be done in an objective manner, based on the scientific data in relation to the endocrine system, independently of any other consideration. It ruled there was no obligation to do an impact assessment.

It is now 2016. We welcome the European Commission’s promise to finally propose the criteria “by the summer”. However, in the meantime the Commission has prioritised the Better Regulation approach with carrying out impact assessments that focus on cost to businesses. This is why we are concerned about how they will select the EDC criteria to propose. The executive seems to be putting much more effort into speeding up the impact assessment of different options for criteria than into the scientific justification of the criteria themselves.

In our view, it is clear that the best criteria for identifying endocrine disrupters are those in option 3 of the executive’s roadmap, using the definition from the World Health Organisation, with three categories (rankings based on the weight of evidence), similar to the current EU identification system for carcinogens, mutagens and reprotoxic compounds.

If the European Commission was looking for a quick way to follow the court ruling, the next step would obviously be to go ahead and adopt the draft criteria proposal from June 2013, which are already the product of a great deal of Commission-led, Commission-funded, and member state expert work and deliberation. To date, we have not yet heard any specific argument from the executive against the scientific validity of these identification criteria.

The Commission likes to stress the pioneering work on the EDC criteria, as do we. Such criteria would make Europe the first in the world to have official identification anchored in law.

But if the criteria finally proposed by European civil servants, and chosen by our national government officials, are not good at identifying the hormone disruptors to which we are exposed, and which pose a threat to our health and environment, our pioneering efforts will have ended in failure.

The good news is that scientific assessments and tools are already available, even though there is still the need for more and better tests and screens. EDCs have already been identified under REACH according to the WHO definition. This demonstrates that EDC identification is possible and workable in a regulatory context.

It is important to note that the identification of a chemical as an EDC is just the first stage of a regulatory process, which does not mean a total immediate ban. In the case of pesticides, if there is no safer alternative and a chemical is still needed due to a “serious danger to plant health”, then its use can continue.

For a biocide, use can continue if a ban would lead to a “disproportionate negative impact”. In the REACH authorisation process, the regulators can consider a socioeconomic assessment of the consequences of use versus non-use. But any decision-making on the necessity versus problems of the uses will not work well if we have not identified the EDCs correctly in the first place.

HEAL and CHEM Trust have joined over 60 groups in the EDC Free Europe coalition to write to all 28 environment and health ministers prior to the next Environment Council meeting this Friday (4 March). We asked them to defend the law they made in order to protect our health and to demand that the Commission immediately complies with the ruling of the ECJ.

This could mean picking up the draft scientific criteria proposed in June 2013 and putting it through the internal Commission consultation as soon as possible. It would use valuable work that’s already been completed, and Europe could move on and start transitioning to sustainable agriculture and healthier farmers and societies.

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.

euractiv. banner
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.