How chemicals are harming our health – Page 3
Green pastures? the comic strip
- Image: Choosing our future full comic book, 2012 edition.
- Health and Environment Alliance, Choosing our future.
- Enjoy our health comic strips album on Flickr.
Taken from “Choosing our future” comic book, 2012 edition
Taken from “Choosing our future” comic book, 2012 edition
Taken from “Choosing our future” comic book, 2012 edition
No matter how old we are, where we live, or what we do, none of us can escape exposure to man-made chemicals in our everyday lives that threaten our health.
The unborn child and children are most at risk because they have fewer defences and longer periods of life ahead of them in which cancer and other health problems may emerge.
We are exposed through food and water, through cosmetics that we rub into our skin and through the fumes from cleaning products and polluted city air.
HEAL’s Lisette van Vliet attended a crucial court hearing against the EU Commission
Reminder: The European Commission failed to adopt scientific criteria by 13 December 2013 for the identification of hormone disrupting chemicals under the Biocides Products Regulation. That law, adopted in 2012, requires biocide substances to be examined for endocrine disrupting properties, and if found, to be taken off the EU market except under certain circumstances. A similar even stricter law exists for pesticides. The European Commission Environment Directorate General had made good progress on draft criteria by spring 2013, but after immense lobbying by the chemical manufacturers and pesticide companies, the European Commission Secretary General decided an impact assessment on the criteria and further regulatory adjustments was necessary and under the new Commission President Juncker, the work on biocides criteria was transferred to the Health Directorate General.
Brussels, Luxembourg 18 November 2015 – A crucial court hearing against the European Commission took place yesterday. The European Union Court of Justice in Luxembourg heard Sweden’s case against the Commission for failing to fulfil its legal obligations regarding hormone disrupting chemicals, also known as endocrine disrupting chemicals (EDCs).
Sweden’s anger erupted after the European Commission missed its legal deadline to put forward criteria to identify EDCs by the end of 2013. The case is supported by the EU Council of governments, which is considered to be the highest political body of the European Union. The European Parliament and three governments are individually backing Sweden. They are Denmark, France and the Netherlands.
Lisette van Vliet, Senior Policy Adviser, Health and Environment Alliance (HEAL), who attended the hearing, says:
“When all EU governments and the European Parliament join together to prosecute the European Commission, it is clear that the Commission is getting it wrong. These delays are keeping Europeans exposed to chemicals that contribute to breast and prostate cancer, diabetes and obesity, infertility and learning disorders. We look to the European Court to make the Commission abide by deadlines set in European law to protect the health of Europeans.”
EDCs interfere with the body’s highly sensitive hormone system. Studies point to EDCs causing obesity, diabetes and cancer. Even tiny amounts of EDCs pose particular risks to unborn children and infants. Policies are urgently needed to reduce human exposure. (3) Costs attributable to exposure to a selected sample of endocrine-disrupting chemicals (with only the highest probability of causation) were recently estimated at €157 billion per year in the European Union.
The EU Commission is currently conducting an impact assessment partly prompted by intensive lobbying by the chemicals and pesticide industry. This is expected to delay the setting EU criteria for defining EDCs until 2017 at the earliest.
For Press releases, Media coverage, Notes for journalists and Contacts, visit HEAL’s paper.
Conference EDCs: criteria for identification and related impacts.
The European Commission Directorate General for Health and Food Safety organises a one-day conference in Brussels on 1 June 2015 on the impact assessment on criteria to identify endocrine disruptors in the context of the Plant Protection Products Regulation (EC) 1107/2009 and the Biocidal Products Regulation (EU) 528/2012.
The aim of the conference is to inform Member States, Members of the European Parliament (MEPs), third countries representatives and stakeholders about the on-going impact assessment on criteria to identify endocrine disruptors and to provide a platform for further exchanges of views.
Registration is free of charge. Please register online by 19 May 2015 at the latest.
Places are limited and therefore only the registration of one representative per country/organisation can be accepted. The submission of the registration form does not constitute a confirmation.
2015 : 10th Anniversary of Pesticides Action Week, 20-30 March
EU action outside the European Commission on the occasion of Pesticide Action Week 2015. In the video, Sophie Bordères, coordinator of Pesticides Action Week speaks about a recent study which discovered a number of pesticides in her body. MEP Michele Rivasi then speaks about the urgent need for EU action to reduce pesticide use. Séverine Perronnet, a young mother who took part in the photo action then explains the importance of knowing about the impacts of pesticides on pregnant women and their children.
Sophie Bordères, coordinator of Pesticides Action Week, says she has residues of pesticides in her body that should not be there. Earlier this month, Ms Bordères discovered the pesticides contained in her body. She had taken part in a study in which a sample of her hair was analysed by the French association, Génerations Futures. Seven endocrine disrupting pesticides were found in all the hair samples of the 28 women participants in the study (the chemical substances are displayed on posters held up by those taking part in the action). She says that making known these findings can help raise awareness of the health and environmental dangers of pesticides, which is one of the key aims of Pesticides Action Week.
” Traces of several insecticides that are endocrine disrupters were found in a sample of my hair, including pyrethroids and organophosphates ” she says.
The study provided more evidence of widespread human contamination with synthetic chemicals. For those women who plan to become pregnant, the risks are a special concern for the vulnerable fetus in the womb.
Confirmation that the traces of one of the pesticides found in Ms Bordères’s body is considered harmful was very recently underlined by an announcement from the UN’s international cancer research agency (IARC).
Lisette van Vliet, HEAL’s Senior Policy Advisor on Chemicals and Chronic Disease Prevention, says :
“Just last week the International Agency for Research on Cancer classified some of these pesticides as probable carcinogens. So the continual increase in hormone-related diseases, such as cancers of the breast and prostate and diabetes, is not an empty coincidence. We call on the European Commission and EU member countries to protect people’s health by phasing out endocrine disrupting chemicals as soon as possible. This includes the widely used organophosphate pesticide, glyphosate, known by its brand name, Roundup.”
Another study published in March estimated the health bill associated with exposure to endocrine disrupting pesticides at €120 billion per year in the European Union.
Lisette van Vliet, HEAL says that parents need information about the risks. The Danish government already provides women in the reproductive age group with advice on exposure to chemicals but most countries do not. “The European Union should be helping all member state governments to provide this information for future and current parents,” she says.
Meanwhile, HEAL has developed a list of available written and visual materials in different European languages.
Although information is vital, EU policy change is what will significantly minimise human exposure and bring down levels of synthetic chemicals and pesticides in European’s bodies. The 2009 pesticide package included a ban on the sale and use of pesticides that are linked with cancer, DNA mutation or reproductive toxicity and encouraged reductions in pesticide spraying in public spaces, such as parks and around schools and hospitals. However, the legislation required that the European Commission define criteria on endocrine disrupting chemicals if the package were to be fully implemented. Although this was supposed to happen by 2013, it still has not been done.
Europeans’ concerns about chemicals were reflected in a Eurobarometer poll published in September 2014. It showed four in ten Europeans worry about the impact of chemicals on their health.
“The process of regulating chemical substances has already been taking too long”
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
With the new Commission, I don’t know. But there were different opinions in the previous different Commission units.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
For World Cancer Day 2015, the year theme is #NotBeyondUs
Action for Breast Cancer Foundation in Malta is organising a both a morning and evening event for the World Cancer Day on February 4th at the Verdala Palace under the Distinguished Patronage of Her Excellency Marie Louise Coleiro Preca, President of Malta.
The Conference will focus on Environmental Policy as a lever for cancer prevention and it is aimed for Health and Environmental NGO’s, Health Care Professionals, Medical doctors, Medical and Health Science Students etc.
Génon K Jensen, Executive Director of Health and Environment Alliance (HEAL), is a keynote speaker and will welcome Malta’s initiative to emphasise the often forgotten aspect of the fight against cancer.
“ HEAL welcomes Malta’s initiative on World Cancer Day to highlight a missing link in cancer prevention by focussing on the role of environmental policy. We hope the experience can inspire other European countries to take up the issue during European Week against Cancer in May.
Within the past 18 months, the World Health Organization’s cancer agency (IARC) has officially recognised air pollution as a contributor to lung cancer. The experts also noted a positive association between higher levels of air pollution and an increased risk of bladder cancer.
Some chemicals in the work and home environment are known to be carcinogenic; others disrupt the human hormone system and are associated with hormonal cancers, such as breast cancer and prostate cancer. The incidence of both these cancers is high having increased rapidly in recent decades in Europe. Experts are in agreement that these upward trends cannot derive from genetics, or an aging population nor on better screening alone; environmental factors, especially exposure to certain hazardous chemicals, is one of the likely causes.
National cancer plans often address environmental factors – but much more needs to be done if the opportunities for primary prevention of cancer are to be fully optimised. “
HEAL has been working since its inception in 2003 to bring attention to opportunities for preventing chronic conditions, including cancer, through the promotion of a less toxic environment.
Let’s tell the EU to stop exposure to hormone disrupting chemicals
Written by Christel Schaldemose
A representative of one of Europe’s most influential cancer organisations, the association of European cancer leagues (ECL) recently told a meeting of MEPs against cancer that curbing exposure to endocrine disrupting chemicals should become a central part of cancer prevention strategy in Europe.
ECL, which focuses on the prevention and control of cancer, brings together national and regional cancer leagues with a staff of more than 6000 throughout Europe. Its director Wendy Tse Yared said that rapid rises in rates of breast and prostate cancer in recent decades could not be explained by improved diagnostics.
She noted that this upward trend coincided with an increase in chemicals and that sufficient evidence now exists that endocrine disrupting chemicals heighten cancer risk.
Effective regulation could contribute to reductions in hormonal cancers, including of the breast, which is the most commonly diagnosed cancer in women and of the prostate, the most commonly diagnosed cancer in men.
It may also help to bring down rates of testicular cancer, which is increasing among young men in Europe. A recent study by Nordic countries on male reproductive health problems associated with these chemicals suggested that endocrine disrupting chemicals might be responsible for up to 40 per cent of all cases of testicular cancer.
Dutch toxicologist Dr Majorie B.M. van Duursen told the meeting that numerous studies on breast cancer showed that exposure to endocrine disrupting chemicals, such as BPA, PBDE and pesticides, can adversely affect the normal development of the mammary gland, potentially making it more susceptible to cancers.
She stressed that one or two new studies were appearing each day on endocrine disrupting chemicals and chronic conditions, including hormonal cancers, infertility, obesity and diabetes.
A review by the world health organisation in 2012 recorded the considerable advances in the scientific evidence that had been made since 2002. No-one can say that we don’t know enough to justify reducing people’s exposure to these chemicals, said Dr Duursen.
The not-for-profit Health and Environment Alliance (HEAL), which brings together over 70 member organisations to address how environmental protection can improve health in the European Union has been advocating stronger action to reduce exposure to harmful chemicals for many years.
Genon K. Jensen, HEAL’s director told the meeting that her members, which include cancer groups, are convinced that exposure to EDCs is a likely explanation of why cancers that are hormone dependent have been rising.
She said that HEAL was part of a coalition of non-governmental organisations called ‘EDC-Free Europe‘ that was helping ordinary individuals to respond to the EU consultation on EDCs. An online platform launched five weeks ago has allowed more than 10,000 individuals to respond.
But despite the rapidly growing scientific evidence and the growing public concern, the delays in effective action continue. What is needed now is a proper identification of EDCs – one that ensures these harmful chemicals are found and ultimately eliminated.
My hope is that this MEPs against cancer meeting will help convince the commission that action now needs to happen. Not tomorrow, but today.