Children’s rights and the environment

Countries have obligation to prevent childhood exposure to toxics

In recent years, numerous cases have called into question the adequacy of State measures to protect human rights from toxics, in particular children’s rights.

The intoxication of children with lead-contaminated drinking water raised questions of race, poverty and discrimination. The deadly impact of an untested consumer product on pregnant women and children laid bare the magnitude to which industries fail to conduct reasonable amounts of due diligence, and the failure of States to require basic information on health and safety. Poisonings around the world by pesticides, extractive industries and industrial emissions to air and water — and their crippling impacts on the health, development and life of children — reinforce the need for strong measures to protect those most at risk.

Report of the Special Rapporteur on the implications for human rights of the environmentally sound management and disposal of hazardous substances and wastes, United Nations, 2 August 2016.

However, the problem is not limited to poisoning. Childhood exposure is a systemic problem everywhere. All around the world, children are born with dozens, perhaps hundreds, of hazardous substances in their bodies. This is leading to what doctors are referring to as a “silent pandemic” of disease and disability affecting millions during childhood and later in life. For a number of reasons, children are left without access to an effective remedy or justice for the harms of toxics and pollution, which enables perpetrators to remain unaccountable.

Children’s rights and the environment – new UN report argues endoccountries have obligation to prevent childhood exposure to toxics, heal, 27 September 2016.

daughter swimming in nappies by edwardmusiak.

Prevention of exposure is the best remedy. The best interests of the child must be a primary consideration of States in protecting children’s rights to life, survival and development, physical integrity, health, being free from the worst forms of child labour, and also to safe food, water and housing, and other rights implicated by toxics and pollution that are enshrined in the Convention on the Rights of the Child. States have a human rights obligation and businesses a corresponding responsibility to prevent childhood exposure to toxic chemicals and pollution.

Read United Nations Human Rights Council Thirty-third session full report, 2 August 2016.

Six steps to pesticide reduction

A HEAL toolkit for communities and individuals wishing to reduce local pesticide use

image of Six steps to pesticide reduction
This version includes extra resources.

Pesticides are chemicals designed to be toxic, and in many cases their toxic nature can be harmful to our health and the environment.
Mounting scientific evidence of the harm to human health and the environment from current pesticide use prompted the European Union (EU) to introduce a package of new laws to reduce our pesticide dependency. However, many Governments are being slow about carrying out the laws.

The toolkit is aimed at community groups and individuals wishing to reduce pesticide use in their communities and local areas. HEAL has drawn on experience of international pesticides and health campaigns to create a 6 step guide packed full of examples and model campaign materials.

  1. What’s the problem?
  2. The lay of the land
  3. Pin-pointing objectives
  4. Reaching your audience
  5. Sharing best practice and building momentum
  6. Keeping up the momentum – sharing information

Sources and more information

How to choose a sunscreen without problematic chemicals

Ecolabels are the easy choice

When you are enjoying the sun and applying sunscreen this summer, don’t forget that your skin is in close contact with the ingredients in the bottle. It is therefore worth considering which substances your sunscreen contains. Are they for example suspected hormone disrupting chemicals?

The Danish Consumer Council THINK Chemicals, an EDC-Free campaign partner, has put over 65 sunscreens to the test. 25 out of 66 sunscreens on the Danish market, many of which are international brands, receive the best assessment for being without content of problematic chemicals.

How to choose a sunscreen without problematic chemicals this summer, Health and Environment Alliance, 27 July 2016.

It is not only from sunscreen that you can be exposed to problematic substances. Other personal care products can also contain unwanted chemicals and you can be exposed to the chemicals from for example dust or vapours in your home. That is what scientists call the cocktail effect, where the combined exposure from many sources of chemicals can be problematic regarding for example hormone disrupting effects.

Eco-labels are the easy choice

In sunscreens consumers can keep an eye out for ingredients such as ethylhexyl methoxycinnamate and benzophenone-3, methyl- and ethylparaben, which are suspected to be endocrine disrupting. However, these names are close to impossible to remember for consumer. Therefore it is easier to look for products with eco-labels. Many consumers also use apps to show whether a product contains unwanted chemicals. A popular app by the Danish Consumer Council ‘Kemiluppen’ – ‘The magnifying glass for chemicals’ – contains 368 sun products in its database including for sunscreens, sun sprays and after sun.

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.

Homes close to pesticide spraying show all year exposure

People living close to cultivated areas are exposed at home all the year round and to a significant cocktail of pesticides, many of which are potential endocrine disruptors

The worrying results of Générations Futures EXPPERT survey 6 (dust analysis) show the urgent need to implement decisions taken under the European regulation on pesticides and within the French national strategy on endocrine disruptors.

Homes close to pesticide spraying show all year exposure, generations-futures, 1 March 2016.

To demonstrate the urgency of strong preventive action in regard to endocrine disruptors – substances that threaten the developing fetus and young children even at low doses – Générations Futures, a HEAL partner and member in France, decided to undertake a series of monitoring reports. These are based on detailed analyzes showing the omnipresence of a number of endocrine disrupting pesticides in our environment leading to significant exposure of the population. This series is called EXPPERT (an abbreviation for “Exposure to pesticides that are endocrine disruptors” in French).

Générations Futures wanted to know more about exposure to pesticides among those living close to where spraying takes place because these people are particularly vulnerable. Some of the pesticides are suspected to be endocrine disruptors. The survey therefore addressed whether people living in agricultural areas using synthetic chemicals in cultivation (in vineyards and orchards and on fields) were permanently exposed to pesticides even in their homes. It also asked whether this exposure included substances suspected of being endocrine disruptors and whether exposure varied according to the season.

Investigation

Twenty-two dust samples were collected in July 2015. (Although 24 samples were taken from different homes taking part, two samples were unsuitable for laboratory testing.) In January 2016, an additional five samples were taken in homes that had taken part in the summer collection.

Six of the houses involved are situated in wine-growing areas, five are near orchards, eight are near field crops and the remaining three are in areas bordering on a mixture of these cultivations. Tests were undertaken for 61 different pesticides.

Results: a pesticides dust bath

The results went beyond all expectations:

  • Each home is exposed. Analysis of the dust samples showed that each contained between eight and 30 pesticides
  • On average, 60% of the pesticides detected are potential endocrine disruptors. The average number of pesticides per home is almost 20 pesticides and almost 12 are potential endocrine disruptors (60.18%)
  • Pesticides that are possible endocrine disruptors made up a very large proportion of the pesticide exposure. Specifically, 17.3 mg of an average of 17.6 mg of pesticides quantified per kg of dust were found to be potential endocrine disruptors (98.16% of the total)
  • Three products are found in all (100%) of samples. They are
    • permethrin,
    • tebuconazole
    • and dimethomorph).

Among the pesticides identified, some have been banned in agriculture in France for several years. For example, Diuron, or DCMU (3-(3,4-dichlorophenyl)-1,1-dimethylurea), which is found in over 90% of homes was banned in France in December 2008.

In summer and in winter

The total amount of all pesticides quantified decreased in the winter. Levels of different pesticides were between 30% and 95% lower than in the summer. In a sense, it is reassuring that the concentrations decrease. On the other hand, it is worrying that the exposure to these pesticides appears to exist throughout the entire year.

“These results clearly show that people living close to cultivated areas are exposed at home all the year round and to a significant cocktail of pesticides, many of which are potential endocrine disruptors. This fact illustrates the urgent need to change agricultural practices and to ensure that the spraying of synthetic pesticides is prohibited near areas where people live,”

says François Veillerette,
Générations Futures’ spokesperson. He adds:

“Our work also underlines the urgent need for the announcement of a definition of endocrine disruptors in order to provide real protection at European level. We call on the French government to put strong pressure on the European Commission so that this widespread exposure to endocrine disrupting pesticides in our countryside can be stopped tomorrow.”

Contacts
  • François Veillerette, Générations Futures, tel: 00 33 6 81 64 65 58. Email
  • Nadine Lauverjat, Générations Futures, tel: 00 33 6 87 56 27 54. Email
  • Diana Smith, Health and Environment Alliance (HEAL), tel: 00 33 6 33 04 2943. Email
Notes

Enquête EXPPERT 6 (analyses de poussières) : des riverains de zones cultivées exposés aux pesticides perturbateurs endocriniens chez eux, tout au long de l’année!”, EXPPERT Survey 6: Read the full report online in French. It includes the analysis of dust samples from both the summer and winter test done by the laboratory, Kudzu Science. Press release in French.

Other materials available in English
  • EXPPERT Survey 1: Which endocrine disrupting insecticides are children exposed to everyday? Press release, Brussels, 25 March 2013
  • EXPPERT Survey 2: Endocrine Disrupting Chemicals and banned Pesticides in strawberries Press release, 25 March 2013
  • EXPPERT Survey 3: How are children exposed to Endocrine Disrupting Chemicals? Press release, 9 July 2014
  • EXPPERT Survey 4: Nineteen endocrine disrupting pesticides found in samples of women’s hair Press release, 12 March 2015
  • EXPPERT Survey 5: Pesticides that are banned or suspected to be EDCs are found in green salads Press release, 22 September 2015

Chemical bisphenol-A classified as toxic

BPA new classification should apply after November 2017

image of BPA-receipt
At the beginning of February, the EU Commission and EU Member States agreed to the classification of bisphenol A (BPA) as a presumed human reproductive toxicant (category 1B). BPA-receipt.

Epidemiological studies have reported that more than 90 percent of people worldwide have BPA in their bodies.

Chemical Bisphenol A (BPA) classified as toxic, Health&Environment, 23 February 2016.

Chemical Bisphenol A (BPA) is considered by many scientists to be a hormone disrupting chemical, and there is long list of adverse effects thought to be caused by this chemical, mainly linked with hormonal, fertility and developmental disorders. These include potential effects on the brain, mammary glands, kidneys, liver functioning and prostate glands. These effects may occur as a result of exposures that happen during biologically vulnerable phases of life. This is particularly relevant for people such as pregnant women, foetuses, infants, and young children.

At EU level, BPA was examined in order to be given a ‘harmonised’ (EU level) classification for its properties that are toxic to reproduction. The European Chemicals Agency (ECHA) Risk Assessment Committee is responsible for the EU harmonised classification process. After the ECHA Risk Assessment Committee gave its recommendation, the EU Commission and Member States agreed on the 1B reprotox classification, which will now be sent, along with any other updates to the Classification law to the European Parliament for ‘scrutiny’. Subsequent to Parliament agreement, and publication in the EU’s Official Journal, its new classification will apply approximately after November 2017.

“This will bring on some consequences for how BPA can be used in Europe, but it is still taking too long to get measures that will significantly reduce people’s exposures across all sorts of product areas, including from food. For example, we call on the European Commission to eliminate BPA completely in food contact materials, instead of ushering in a ‘safe limit’ that doesn’t change current practices of the food contact plastics and canning industries.”

A number of EU laws contain specific measures to control chemicals classified as reproductive toxicants, such as the REACH chemicals law, the Cosmetics Regulation, the Pesticides Regulation, etc. The classification notably opens the way for BPA to be easily adopted as a Substance of Very High Concern in the REACH chemicals system.

Lisette van Vliet, Senior Policy Advisor on Chemicals for HEAL, said

Hazardous chemicals and organic life

Hi uncle! Still a bit crazy?

Hi uncle comic strip image
Hi uncle! Still a bit crazy? behind the dialogue

For a healthier life, consume chemicals in moderation!
@HealthandEnv 2012.

HI UNCLE! STILL A BIT CRAZY?
THE COMIC STRIP

Sources

Hi uncle! Still a bit crazy? Hazardous chemicals and organic life

Taken from “Choosing our future” comic book, 2012 edition

Switching to a healthier lifestyle also means asking governments for better protection from harmful chemicals. Page 3

Hi uncle comic strip image
For a healthier life, consume chemicals in moderation! @HealthandEnv 2012.

Hi uncle! Still a bit crazy?
the comic strip

Sources
Related

Hi uncle! Still a bit crazy? Hazardous chemicals and organic life

Taken from “Choosing our future” comic book, 2012 edition

Switching to a healthier lifestyle also means asking governments for better protection from harmful chemicals. Page 2

Hi uncle comic strip image
For a healthier life, consume chemicals in moderation! @HealthandEnv 2012.

Hi uncle! Still a bit crazy?
the comic strip

Sources
Related

Hi uncle! Still a bit crazy? Hazardous chemicals and organic life

Taken from “Choosing our future” comic book, 2012 edition

Switching to a healthier lifestyle also means asking governments for better protection from harmful chemicals. Page 1

Safer alternatives to harmful chemicals exist. Ask your government!

Since we are uncertain about the safety of some chemicals, we should act with precaution.

Apart from changing our lifestyle as individuals, governments should help to protect us from harmful chemicals.

Hi uncle comic strip image
For a healthier life, consume chemicals in moderation! @HealthandEnv 2012.

Hi uncle! Still a bit crazy?
the comic strip

Sources
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