How Are You Going to Beat Plastic Pollution ?

Join the global game of #BeatPlasticPollution tag!

Video published on 31 May 2018 by UN Environment.

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  • World Environment Day (WED) is the United Nations’ most important day for encouraging worldwide awareness and action for the protection of our environment. Since it began in 1974, it has grown to become a global platform for public outreach that is widely celebrated in over 100 countries.
  • Read Healthy Environment, Healthy People.
  • Watch our interviews and trailers video playlist on YouTube.

Endocrine Disruptors: The Discreet but Major Gift to the Pesticides Lobby

The European Commission submited its proposal for regulation of chemical substances on 21.12.2016

This article by Stéphane Horel was originally published by Le Monde on December 20. This translated version published by EDC-Free Europe.  This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License. Image thecvopros.

It’s a paragraph that does not look like anything, added at the bottom of the document at the last minute. In a tortuous and impenetrable formulation, it refers to a derogation for products acting on the “moulting and / or growth of harmful organisms”. But, reformulated in common language, it is no more or less a concession from the European Commission to the pesticide lobby.

A few days before Christmas, Wednesday 21 December, three years late, the Commission is due to submit to a vote its proposed regulation on endocrine disruptors, these ubiquitous chemicals capable of interfering with the hormonal system of living beings at sometimes tiny doses. This proposal is supposed to implement a very strict provision of the European regulation on pesticides: the ban on pesticides that will be recognized as endocrine disruptors.

It is therefore the criteria that allow them to be identified which the Commission has drawn up and which the representatives of the Member States must adopt or reject. The vote will be held in the Standing Committee on the Food Chain and Animal Safety after six months of negotiations.

If the devil is hiding in the details, the paragraph inserted by the Commission at the last minute is anything but anecdotal. While the “pesticides regulation” requires removing endocrine disruptors from the market, the paragraph creates a derogation from identification for a whole group of pesticides that have the particularity of … being endocrine disruptors. Indeed some pesticides wipe out insects or plants known as “pests” to crops by acting on their hormonal system to block their moulting or growth. In other words, these are pesticides that have been designed to be endocrine disruptors. Rather than using this knowledge to identify and prohibit them, the Commission proposes that they be spared.

Request from the trio BASF, Bayer and Syngenta

This major derogation is in fact an old request of the pesticide industry. It was developed by the trio of pesticide manufacturers who will be most affected by the regulation: the German giant BASF (the world leader in chemistry) and Bayer (being merged with Monsanto) and the Swiss group Syngenta. In a document dated 2013, employees of these groups argue for a “derogation” for what they refer to as “endocrine disruptors by design”:

Strictly speaking, such compounds would fulfil the endocrine disruptor definition as their endocrine mechanism and adverse population-relevant effects are intended and well-described.  (…) Consequently, an exemption category for these chemicals should be defined.. ”

The new paragraph resembles in an unmistakable way the article written by employees of pesticide manufacturers.

But the exemption is problematic for living beings, which could be affected by these endocrine disrupting pesticides, from plants to ladybugs, passing by nearby squirrels,  that is all those that the law calls “non-target organisms” but are also equipped with a hormonal system liable to be hijacked by these products.

Weed killer classified as “possible human carcinogen

While there is no assessment of the consequences of this clause on the ecosystem, it will undoubtedly have a positive impact on the industry. According to information gathered by Le Monde, this exception would correspond to about 15 insecticides and a handful of herbicides including 2,4-D, a herbicide that has also been classified as a “possible human carcinogen” by the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) in 2015.

According to the calculations made by the NGO Générations futures, the derogation concerns more than 8 700 tonnes of commercial products per year, just for France. Francois Veillerette, the spokesperson of the NGO, is indignant:

“It is aberrant in a regulation that wants to remove endocrine disruptors to protect the ecosystem.”

This request doesn’t come from us but from the German authorities”, said Graeme Taylor, director of public affairs for the European Crop Protection Association (ECPA). The lobbying organization of the pesticide industry rejected the Commission’s proposal “as a whole”, considering that it “does not go far enough”.

Uncertain majority, proposal cut in half

Uncertain to get a majority on Wednesday, the European Commission cut off its contested proposal in two. The first scientific part contains an environmental component, including this new derogation, and a human health component, which is also the subject of strong criticism from the relevant scientific community, NGOs and certain Member States, including France.

They all denounced the inadequacy of the text to protect the population from diseases linked to exposure to endocrine disruptors (cancers, brain development problems, infertility, diabetes, etc.).

The second part of the proposal, on regulatory aspects, also contains a substantial derogation. If kept, the risks posed by endocrine disrupting pesticides would be assessed on a case-by-case basis after being placed on the market, whereas the law requires their a priori prohibition. This part is not only considered illegal by the European Parliament, NGOs and certain countries, but Le Monde revealed at the end of November, with supporting documents, that it was based on conclusions written in advance by an official European agency.

“These proposals are unacceptable and they do not respond to growing public concern or mobilization for genuine action that would reduce the presence of endocrine disruptors in our daily lives”,

said the coalition of NGOs EDC- Free Europe. An online petition from SumOfUs, calling to reject the proposal, has collected more than 260,000 signatures.

At the highest political level in Europe, where “good work” is considered to have been done, it is argued that there was a “scientific controversy” about endocrine disruptors to deal with. Yet a hundred respected scientists have warned decision-makers against a “manufacturing of doubt” financed by industries whose commercial interests are threatened, in the manner of the oil industry with climate change (Le Monde, November 30). Facts that a European official sweeps away, however, as “conspiracy theories”.

What happened on the 21.12.2016

MORE INFORMATION

The 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

Endocrine Disruptors: A Denial of the State of the Science

Part 2 of 3 – The European Commission relies on studies financed by industry

This article by Stéphane Horel was originally published by Le Monde on November 29. This version is translated by the Health and Environment Alliance and republished with permission on Environmental Health News first. This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License. “Spray” Image Will Fuller.

The current scientific knowledge:” It is this that the European Commission assures it is using to justify its much criticized choices in the regulation of endocrine disruptors. Yet, the Endocrine Society, a major scholarly society, believes that the Commission “ignores [the] state of science.” How can such a hiatus be explained?

To document its considerations, the Directorate-General for Health and Food Safety, responsible for the file at the Commission, carried out an impact assessment of more than 400 pages, which was published in June after having been under lock and key as a state secret. To what specific “scientific knowledge” does it refer?

The decision-making process began in 2009 and the “scientific knowledge” on endocrine disruptors has evolved considerably since then.

Above all, the Commission cites the opinion issued by one of its official agencies, the European Food Safety Authority, in 2013. This opinion is indeed the basis of its regulatory proposal. But the decision-making process began in 2009 and the “scientific knowledge” on endocrine disruptors has evolved considerably since then.

The Endocrine Society produced a review of the science in 2015. It examined 1,322 publications that had been published since its last review, which was actually in 2009. Conclusion? They do not leave “any doubt that EDCs [endocrine disruptors] are contributing to increased chronic disease burdens related to obesity, diabetes mellitus, reproduction, thyroid, cancers, and neuroendocrine and neurodevelopmental functions.”

In 2013, some 20 researchers working for nearly two years under the auspices of the World Health Organization (WHO) and the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP) had reached similar conclusions. Their report sounded the alarm bell on a “global threat that needs to be resolved.

“Controversial interpretation”

These recent additions to “scientific knowledge” are indeed mentioned in the Commission’s impact assessment but disqualified on the basis that they do not deserve to be taken into consideration. “Evidence is scattered and its interpretation controversial,” the assessment report says, “so that a causal link or even a possible association between ED [endocrine disruptors] exposure at environmental levels and the diseases is not agreed among experts.”

In the wake of this damning reception, it reduces the Endocrine Society to a “stakeholder” who has issued a “statement.” As for the WHO/UNEP report, “scientific criticism to the general methodology used … was raised,” it indicates, citing a number of publications which it says show that the controversy “seems not resolved.” But what publications would be sufficiently authoritative as to be able to knock down the work carried out by the most respected specialists in the field?

Notably, the Commission’s negative comments are based on “critical comments,” published in 2014, challenging the methods and conclusions of the WHO/UNEP report. Among the ten authors of the comments, seven are working for two consulting companies, Exponent and Gradient Corp, which specialize in scientific issues and are known as “product-defense firms.”

But, most importantly, it was industry that sponsored the article through its lobbying organizations: the chemical sector with the European Chemical Industry Council (Cefic) and the American Chemistry Council and the pesticides sector with CropLife America, CropLife Canada, CropLife International and the European Crop Protection Association.

“Urban legend”

None of this can be unknown to the Commission services. Not only do these sponsors appear clearly in the declaration of interests at the end of the article, but industry itself sent it to them. Cefic sent it by e-mail to about 30 European officials involved in the case on March 17, 2014. In a message consulted by Le Monde, the industrialists explain that they have “commissioned a consortium of scientific experts to independently review the WHO-UNEP report,” fearing, in particular, that “despite its serious shortcomings it was being used to call for more precautionary chemicals policy.

Other publications cited in the impact study include a two-page article, one of whose signatories is a person better known for his role as a consultant to the tobacco industry than for his competence on this topic. Among its co-authors are toxicologists paid by the chemical, pesticides and plastic industries.

Another article has again two consultants out of the three authors and talks about endocrine disruptors as an “urban legend” posing “imaginary health risks.” Making fun of the “hypothetical” effects of endocrine disruptors, such as the “reduced penis length and size,” they pose the question of “whether the whole issue of EDC is more within the competence of Dr. Sigmund Freud than that of toxicology.”

Can these texts really be incorporated into “scientific knowledge?” Why does the Commission give so much credit to documents that resemble lobbying material?

In a momentous editorial published today [November 29, 2016] in Le Monde, independent scientists express concerns about a “distortion of the evidence by industrially sponsored actors.” Signed by a hundred experts from two very different fields – endocrine disruption and climate change – their text notes the “dangerous consequences for the health of people and the environment” of this strategy of “manufacturing of doubt.”

MORE INFORMATION

The 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

Endocrine Disruptors: The Manufacture of a Lie

Part 1 of 3 – The European Commission has developed its own evidence to avoid an overly stringent regulation of these hazardous substances

This article by Stéphane Horel was originally published by Le Monde on November 29. This version is translated by the Health and Environment Alliance and republished with permission on Environmental Health News first. This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License. Image JULIE BALAGUE POUR LE MONDE.

Everything, or almost everything, is contained in a few words: “(Endocrine disruptors) can … be treated like most other substances of concern for human health and the environment.” It is on this simple phrase, which comes from the conclusion of an opinion from the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) in 2013, that Brussels bases its plan to regulate endocrine disruptors, these ubiquitous substances capable of interfering with the hormonal system, often at low doses.

The proposal, which is due to be voted on by the Member States soon, has not only France, Denmark and Sweden united against it but also all the non-governmental organizations (NGOs) who consider that it does not protect public health and the environment.

The key phrase on which the regulatory edifice proposed by the Commission is built had been drafted even before any scientific expertise had really begun.

The expert scientific community, embodied by the Endocrine Society – a scholarly society that brings together some 18,000 researchers and clinicians specializing in the hormonal system – is also battling against the proposal. This opposition is surprising given that the European Commission insists that it relies on science, in the form of the scientific expertise of EFSA.

The explanation for this singular hiatus is found in a series of internal documents of the European administration obtained by Le Monde. They show, without ambiguity, that the key phrase on which the regulatory edifice proposed by the Commission is built had been drafted even before any scientific expertise had really begun.

Written conclusions in advance

In December 2012, EFSA was already presenting “conclusions/recommendations” in an e-mail to the experts it had assembled to carry out this work.

It said: “…endocrine disruptors and their adverse effects should be treated just like any other chemical of concern for human health or the environment.” The key phrase is already there. Yet, the very first meeting to set up work was held only a few days before. At the end of March 2013, three months later, the phrase figures in the conclusions of the opinion published by the agency.

For sure, the conclusions were written beforehand, if not on paper, but in the heads of some of the participants,” a source close to the file at the time told Le Monde. The Commission itself did not respond to our questions. EFSA reacted with an assurance that it had properly fulfilled its mandate.

EFSA’s “Scientific Committee took stock of the various views from a number of experts and forums,” the European agency said when questioned.

The “EFSA phrase,” harmless for the uninitiated, has, in fact, a considerable weight. Because if endocrine disruptors were actually substances that are just like any others, then there would be no need for strict regulation.

The pesticide industry, which is most affected by the issue, has clearly understood the point. Its main lobbying organizations – the European Crop Protection Association (ECPA), CropLife International, CropLife America – or the German agrochemical groups BASF or Bayer, repeat ad libitum the “EFSA phrase” in arguments and correspondence with the European institutions that Le Monde has seen.

In fact, the famous phrase is of major importance for European regulation on plant protection products. It was in 2009 that the European Parliament voted a new “pesticides regulation.” According to this legislation, pesticides a priori identified as “endocrine disruptors” would no longer be allowed to enter or remain on the market except when the exposure is considered negligible.

This provision only needs one thing if it is to be applied: the adoption of scientific criteria to define endocrine disruptors – that is, what Brussels is proposing today. But since endocrine disruptors are chemical substances like any others – it’s the “EFSA phrase” that prompts the question: why prohibit them a priori?

“Major breach” in health protection

The Commission has therefore made an amendment to the text. Now, it is sufficient to assess the risk that they present on a case-by-case basis if problems arise after they have been placed on the market – and therefore a posteriori. Is this change at the cost of the spirit of the 2009 regulation?

This amendment would open a “major loophole” in the protection of health and the environment, says EDC-Free Europe. This coalition of NGOs accuses the Commission of wanting to distort the intention of European law.

But above all, this amendment to the 2009 regulation poses a democratic problem: it is much as if the officials have taken the initiative to draft an implementing decree that had nothing to do with the intention of the elected representatives.

The European Parliament is also of this opinion. In a copy of a letter seen by Le Monde and dated September 15, the chairman of the Parliament’s Environment Committee wrote to the Health Commissioner, Vytenis Andriukaitis, who is responsible for the file, saying that the project: “exceeds the implementing powers of the Commission” by amending “essential elements” of the law. Similarly, in their note of October 10, France, Denmark and Sweden do not say anything different, judging that the Commission has no right to change “a policy choice by the legislator.”

This rebuke is all the more unfortunate because it comes when the Commission is already in a state of illegality on this issue. The European Court of Justice actually condemned the Commission in December 2015 for violating EU law: the Commission had been required to settle the question of the criteria to identify endocrine disrupters before the end of 2013.

However, the Commission remains unfazed by the shower of criticism. It offers an assurance that it has fulfilled the condition which authorizes it to “update” the regulation: to take into account the evolution of “scientific knowledge,” namely the famous little phrase of EFSA. It is that phrase on which its justification rests.

But why should EFSA have written, in advance, a conclusion in breach of the scientific consensus? An internal Commission document obtained by Le Monde sheds some light on the intentions of the Directorate General for Health and Food Safety (DG Health), which is now responsible for the matter at the Commission.

“What we see here is policy-based evidence-making.”

Axel Singhofen, Greens-European Free Alliance.

A meeting report records in black and white that, as of September 2012, DG Health intends to disregard the will of elected representatives in Europe. The health directorate said then that it “did not oppose even the idea to go back to regulating based on risk assessment” and was “ready to change entirely” the part of the regulation concerned.

The same document states further on that DG Health will have to “talk with EFSA to try and accelerate the preparation” of its opinion. At this point, EFSA’s opinion did not exist … The agency had only just been asked to set up a working group on endocrine disruptors.

A “mortified” message

The very special conditions in which this working group operated can be read in e-mails exchanged by EFSA experts and officials. One month before the release of the EFSA report, the World Health Organization (WHO) and the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP) published a joint report on endocrine disruptors.

A mortified EFSA expert sent a message to the whole group: “It is almost embarrassing to compare the current draft report with the WHO-UNEP report … when WHO-UNEP comes to the conclusion that traditional risk assessment of chemicals is not fit for purpose to assess (endocrine disruptors), we are exactly coming to the opposite conclusion.”

This scientist considered it essential that the conclusions be radically changed. The EFSA official overseeing the work of the expert group agreed.

The “current conclusions where we explain that [endocrine disruptors] should be considered like most other chemicals […] puts us in isolation compared to the rest of the world, and may be hard to defend,” he writes. However, when EFSA’s opinion is published on March 20, 2013, it continued to include, unperturbed, the little phrase.

This should be a science-based procedure … evidence-based policy-making,” says Axel Singhofen, an adviser to the Greens-European Free Alliance in the European Parliament. “But what we see here is policy-based evidence-making.”

MORE INFORMATION

The 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

What Mark will You leave on Our World?

World Environment Day 2016 official video by UNEP

Video published on 4th June 2016 by UNEP.

Go Wild for Life: celebrate World Environment Day on June 5th!

More Information

  • World Environment Day (WED) is the United Nations’ most important day for encouraging worldwide awareness and action for the protection of our environment. Since it began in 1974, it has grown to become a global platform for public outreach that is widely celebrated in over 100 countries.
    Visit #
    WED2016 official website.
  • Read Healthy Environment, Healthy People.
  • Watch our interviews and trailers video playlist on YouTube.

Healthy Environment, Healthy People

UNEP report confirms unhealthy environment can shorten your life

Investing in environmental sustainability can serve as an insurance policy for health and human well-being, UNEP, May 2016.

The degradation of the environment – the air we breathe, the food we eat, the water we drink, and the ecosystems which sustain us – is estimated to be responsible for at least a quarter of the global total burden of disease, according to a new May 2016 UNEP report.

The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and its Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) reflect the common understanding that a healthy environment is integral to the full enjoyment of basic human rights, including the rights to life, health, food, water and sanitation, and quality of life.

Healthy Environment, Healthy People, Thematic report, Ministerial policy review session, Second session of the United Nations Environment Assembly, of the United Nations Environment Programme, Nairobi, 23–27 May 2016

Directly tackling the inter-linkages between environment and human health presents new and interwoven opportunities to meet the SDGs in a more cost-effective and beneficial manner. To “ensure healthy lives and promote well-being for all at all ages” (SDG3) – which includes a specific target related to air quality – cannot be achieved over the long term without explicit action on terrestrial ecosystems (SDG15), oceans (SDG14), cities (SDG11), water and sanitation (SDG6).

UN report confirms unhealthy environment can shorten your life, lifestyle.inquirer, June 1st.

Air pollution is the world’s largest single environmental risk to health (some 7 million people across the world die each year due to everyday exposure to poor air quality), but it cannot be viewed in isolation.

Environmental Degradation is Costly

Environmental degradation is estimated to cause 174-234 times as many premature deaths as occur in conflicts annually. Disproportionate impacts of environmental harms are evident on specific groups: the poor, the young, the elderly, women and migrant workers, the report says.

Zika, Ebola, MERS, SARS, Marburg… new zoonotic diseases (spread from animals to humans) are currently emerging every four months, with the main drivers being exponential population growth, intensive livestock breeding, (there are 36 billion domestic animals on the planet) and concomitant disturbed environments and biodiversity loss. Strengthening healthy ecosystems is key to preventing or slowing the emergence of these costly diseases. A key need is for greater investment in integrated surveillance of wildlife, livestock and human health.

The financial costs of environmentally related health risks are generally in the range of 5-10 per cent of GDP, with air pollution taking the highest toll. Evidence exists, however, of the catalytic and multiple benefits of investing in environmental quality in terms of development, poverty reduction, resource security, reduced inequities and reduced risks to human health and well-being.

The Role and Contribution of Montane Forests and Related Ecosystem Services to the Kenyan Economy, the United Nations Environment Programme UNEP report, February 2012.

A 2012 UNEP report showed that well-managed montane forest cover reduced malarial disease prevalence, and that malaria resulted in additional health costs to the Government as well as labour productivity losses.

The UNEP Healthy Environment, Healthy People report indicates that lack of access to clean water and sanitation causes 58 per cent of cases of diarrhoeal diseases in low and middle-income countries. Unsafe water, inadequate sanitation or insufficient hygiene result in 3.5 million deaths worldwide, representing 25 per cent of the premature deaths of children younger than 14, it says.

Mental Health

There is growing evidence to suggest that exposure to natural environments can be associated with mental health benefits.

Clean air and water, sanitation and green spaces, safe workplaces can enhance people’s quality of life: reduced mortality and morbidity, healthier lifestyles, improved productivity of workers and their families, improve lives of women, children and elderly and are crucial to mental health.

Mental health issues rank among the 10 largest non-fatal threats in most countries, according to the report.

The great outdoors? Exploring the mental health benefits of natural environments, Frontiers in Psychology, NCBI PubMed PMC4204431, 2014 Oct 21.

There is growing evidence to suggest that exposure to natural environments can be associated with mental health benefits. Proximity to greenspace has been associated with lower levels of stress and reduced symptomology for depression and anxiety, while interacting with nature can improve cognition for children with attention deficits and individuals with depression. A 2014 epidemiological study has shown that people who move to greener urban areas benefit from sustained improvements in their mental health.

Natural environments and mental health, Advances in Integrative Medicine, Integrative Mental Health, Volume 2, Issue 1, April 2015, Pages 5–12.

“It is becoming increasingly evident that the 2.2 million years our genus has spent in natural environments are consequential to modern mental health… The accumulating strength of research from multiple disciplines makes it difficult to dismiss the clinical relevancy of natural environments in 21st century mental health care,” says another report.

An integrated Approach

Based on evidence of the linkages between poor environmental quality and health, the report identifies several priority problem areas for urgent policy attention, including:

  1. Unsafe water, inadequate sanitation or insufficient hygiene which cause mortality, morbidity and lost economic productivity;
  2. Nutritionally poor diet composition and quality, as well as increased physical inactivity, which has increased the growth of non-communicable diseases throughout the world; and
  3. Degraded ecosystems and stresses to the Earth’s natural systems, which reduce ecosystem services that support human health, enhance exposure to natural disasters, food security, and at times give rise to disease outbreaks.

Climate change is exacerbating the scale and intensity of these environment-related health risks, and is acknowledged as a major health risk multiplier, with existing impacts that are expected to increasingly affect human health including through negative changes to land, oceans, biodiversity and access to freshwater, and the increasing frequency and higher impact of natural disasters.

The report’s findings provide a strong basis for adopting an integrated approach for improving human health and well-being through increased engagement by the health sector in ecosystem management and decision-making. They also identify integrated actions and strategies, such as:

Decouple resource use and change lifestyles:
Use fewer resources per unit of economic output produced and reduce the environmental impact of any resources used in production and consumption activities through more efficient practices.

Enhance ecosystem resilience and protection of the planet’s natural systems:
Build capacity of the environment, economies and societies to anticipate, respond to and recover from disturbances and shocks through: agro-ecosystem restoration and sustainable farming systems; strengthening ecosystem restoration, in particular wetlands, dryland vegetation, coastal zones and watersheds, including through reforestation; reducing livestock and logging pressures to increase resilience and mitigate extreme weather conditions of storms, drought and floods.

Addressing the nexus between environment and human health through delivering on environmental sustainability can provide a common platform for meeting many of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Through multiplier effects that can accelerate and sustain progress across multiple SDGs, investing in environmental sustainability can serve as an insurance policy for health and human well-being, the report concludes.

This post is a reprint from UNEP UNEA Stories of ChangeHealthy Environment, Healthy People.

Endocrine-Disrupting Chemicals: the UNEP and WHO Assessment

Effects of human exposure to hormone-disrupting chemicals examined in landmark UN report

State-of-the-Science-of-Endocrine disrupting chemicals
Effects of human exposure to hormone-disrupting chemicals examined in landmark UN report.

An assessment of the state of the science of endocrine disruptors prepared by a group of experts for the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) and WHO

This document provides the global status of scientific knowledge on exposure to and effects of endocrine disrupting chemicals (EDCs).

The work is based on the fact that endocrine systems are very similar across vertebrate species and that endocrine effects manifest themselves independently of species. The effects are endocrine system related and not necessarily species dependent. Effects shown in wildlife or experimental animals may also occur in humans if they are exposed to EDCs at a vulnerable time and at concentrations leading to alterations of endocrine regulation. Of special concern are effects on early development of both humans and wildlife, as these effects are often irreversible and may not become evident until later in life. The third and final chapter of this document discusses exposure of humans and wildlife to EDCs and potential EDCs.

Sources and more information

State of the Science of Endocrine Disrupting Chemicals 2012

Information and key concerns for policy-makers on endocrine disruptors

State of the Science of Endocrine Disrupting Chemicals – 2012
An assessment of the state of the science of endocrine disruptors prepared by a group of experts for the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) and WHO.

An assessment of the state of the science of endocrine disruptors prepared by a group of experts for the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) and WHO
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State of the Science of Endocrine Disrupting Chemicals – 2012

Effects of human exposure to hormone-disrupting chemicals examined in landmark UN report

State of the science of endocrine disrupting chemicals - 2012
An assessment of the state of the science of endocrine disruptors prepared by a group of experts for the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) and WHO.

19 FEBRUARY 2013 News Release
Many synthetic chemicals, untested for their disrupting effects on the hormone system, could have significant health implications according to the State of the Science of Endocrine Disrupting Chemicals, a new report by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) and WHO.

The joint study calls for more research to understand fully the associations between endocrine disrupting chemicals (EDCs)—found in many household and industrial products—and specific diseases and disorders. The report notes that with more comprehensive assessments and better testing methods, potential disease risks could be reduced, with substantial savings to public health.

Some substances can alter the hormonal system

Human health depends on a well-functioning endocrine system to regulate the release of certain hormones that are essential for functions such as metabolism, growth and development, sleep and mood. Some substances known as endocrine disruptors can alter the function(s) of this hormonal system increasing the risk of adverse health effects. Some EDCs occur naturally, while synthetic varieties can be found in pesticides, electronics, personal care products and cosmetics. They can also be found as additives or contaminants in food.

The UN study, which is the most comprehensive report on EDCs to date, highlights some associations between exposure to EDCs and health problems including the potential for such chemicals to contribute to the development of non-descended testes in young males, breast cancer in women, prostate cancer in men, developmental effects on the nervous system in children, attention deficit /hyperactivity in children and thyroid cancer.

Human exposure can occur in a number of ways

EDCs can enter the environment mainly through industrial and urban discharges, agricultural run-off and the burning and release of waste. Human exposure can occur via the ingestion of food, dust and water, inhalation of gases and particles in the air, and skin contact.

“Chemical products are increasingly part of modern life and support many national economies, but the unsound management of chemicals challenges the achievement of key development goals, and sustainable development for all,” said UN Under Secretary-General and UNEP Executive Director Achim Steiner.

“Investing in new testing methods and research can enhance understanding of the costs of exposure to EDCs, and assist in reducing risks, maximizing benefits and spotlighting more intelligent options and alternatives that reflect a transition to a green economy,” added Mr Steiner.

More research is needed

In addition to chemical exposure, other environmental and non-genetic factors such as age and nutrition could be among the reasons for any observed increases in disease and disorders. But pinpointing exact causes and effects is extremely difficult due to wide gaps in knowledge.

“We urgently need more research to obtain a fuller picture of the health and environment impacts of endocrine disruptors,” said Dr Maria Neira, WHO’s Director for Public Health and Environment. “The latest science shows that communities across the globe are being exposed to EDCs, and their associated risks. WHO will work with partners to establish research priorities to investigate links to EDCs and human health impacts in order to mitigate the risks. We all have a responsibility to protect future generations.”

The report also raises similar concerns on the impact of EDCs on wildlife. In Alaska in the United States, exposure to such chemicals may contribute to reproductive defects, infertility and antler malformation in some deer populations. Population declines in species of otters and sea lions may also be partially due to their exposure to diverse mixtures of PCBs, the insecticide DDT, other persistent organic pollutants, and metals such as mercury. Meanwhile, bans and restrictions on the use of EDCs have been associated with the recovery of wildlife populations and a reduction in health problems.

Recommendations

The study makes a number of recommendations to improve global knowledge of these chemicals, reduce potential disease risks, and cut related costs. These include:

  • Testing: known EDCs are only the ‘tip of the iceberg’ and more comprehensive testing methods are required to identify other possible endocrine disruptors, their sources, and routes of exposure.
  • Research: more scientific evidence is needed to identify the effects of mixtures of EDCs on humans and wildlife (mainly from industrial by-products) to which humans and wildlife are increasingly exposed.
  • Reporting: many sources of EDCs are not known because of insufficient reporting and information on chemicals in products, materials and goods.
  • Collaboration: more data sharing between scientists and between countries can fill gaps in data, primarily in developing countries and emerging economies.

Research has made great strides in the last ten years showing endocrine disruption to be far more extensive and complicated than realized a decade ago,” said Professor Åke Bergman of Stockholm University and Chief Editor of the report. “As science continues to advance, it is time for both management of endocrine disrupting chemicals and further research on exposure and effects of these chemicals in wildlife and humans.”

Sources and more information

Everyday Chemicals may pose serious Health Risk

UN, WHO panel calls hormone-disrupting chemicals a global threat

Read UN, WHO panel calls hormone-disrupting chemicals a 'global threat'Rising exposure to chemicals that disrupt and mimic hormones – endocrine disruptors – may present a significant threat to human health, especially that of children in the womb, and to wildlife populations, a new global study of the effect of man-made substances in the environment has concluded. Study produced for the World Health Organisation (WHO) and the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP).

Read UN, WHO panel calls hormone-disrupting chemicals a ‘global threat’, by Brian Bienkowski, Environmental, environmentalhealthnews, Feb. 19, 2013.

EDCs Reports