Every child deserves the opportunity to thrive, in safe and healthy settings

Inheriting a sustainable world: Atlas on children’s health and the environment

Overview

WHO ‘s publication outlines the impact of the environment on children’s health and recommends solutions for preventing diseases and deaths in the future.

More than a decade after WHO published Inheriting the world: The atlas of children’s health and the environment in 2004, this new publication presents the continuing and emerging challenges to children’s environmental health.

This 2015 edition – download here – is not simply an update but a more detailed review; we take into account changes in the major environmental hazards to children’s health over the last 13 years, due to increasing urbanization, industrialization, globalization and climate change, as well as efforts in the health sector to reduce children’s environmental exposures. Inheriting a sustainable world? Atlas on children’s health and the environment aligns with the Global Strategy for Women’s, Children’s and Adolescents’ Health, launched in 2015, in stressing that every child deserves the opportunity to thrive, in safe and healthy settings.

This book seeks to promote the importance of creating sustainable environments and reducing the exposure of children to modifiable environmental hazards. The wide scope of the SDGs offers a framework within which to work and improve the lives of all children. To this end, we encourage further data collection and tracking of progress on the SDGs, to show the current range of global environmental hazards to children’s health and identify necessary action to ensure that no one is left behind.

Environmental exposures start in the womb

Protecting Children from the Environment

Children, including adolescents, are exposed to a variety of hazards from the environments in which they live, learn and play.

Environmental exposures start in the womb, and can have effects throughout life.

Early exposure to environmental risks contributes to childhood cancers.

SOURCES

Environmental Risks and Children

Protecting Children from the Environment

A safe, healthy and protective environment is key to ensuring all children grow and develop normally and healthily. In 2015, reducing environmental risks could have prevented more than a quarter of the 5.9 million deaths of children under 5 years.

Children are particularly vulnerable to air pollution, hazardous chemicals, climate change, and inadequate water, sanitation and hygiene.

SOURCES

Protecting Children from the Environment

Protecting Children from the Environment

Children, including adolescents, are exposed to a variety of hazards from the environments in which they live, learn and play.

More than 1 in 4 child deaths could be prevented by cleaning up the environment. Each year 1.7 million deaths of children under 5 years old are linked to the environment.

Early exposure to environmental risks contributes to childhood cancers.

SOURCES

Air Pollution and Children

Protecting Children from the Environment

Air pollution is the greatest environmental risk to children’s health.

Every year air pollution kills 570,000 children. With all the challenges children face, the air they breathe shouldn’t be one of them.

Exposure to air pollution may also increase children’s lifelong risk of heart disease, stroke and cancer.

SOURCES

Don’t pollute my future!

The impact of the environment on children’s health

Introduction

Protecting the children from the environment

In 2015, 5.9 million children under age five died. The major causes of child deaths globally are pneumonia, prematurity, intrapartum-related complications, neonatal sepsis, congenital anomalies, diarrhoea, injuries and malaria. Most of these diseases and conditions are at least partially caused by the environment. It was estimated in 2012 that 26% of childhood deaths and 25% of the total disease burden in children under five could be prevented through the reduction of environmental risks such as air pollution, unsafe water, sanitation and inadequate hygiene or chemicals.

Children are especially vulnerable to environmental threats due to their developing organs and immune systems, smaller bodies and airways. Harmful exposures can start as early as in utero. Furthermore, breastfeeding can be an important source of exposure to certain chemicals in infants; this should, however, not discourage breastfeeding which carries numerous positive health and developmental effects. Proportionate to their size, children ingest more food, drink more water and breathe more air than adults. Additionally, certain modes of behaviour, such as putting hands and objects into the mouth and playing outdoors can increase children’s exposure to environmental contaminants.

Download Don’t pollute my future! The impact of the environment on children’s health, who publications, WHO/FWC/IHE/17.01.

Pesticides responsible for an estimated 200,000 acute poisoning deaths each year

Pesticides are “global human rights concern”, say two United Nations experts urging for a new global treaty

GENEVA (7 March 2017) – Two United Nations experts are calling for a comprehensive new global treaty to regulate and phase out the use of dangerous pesticides in farming, and move towards sustainable agricultural practices. Their full report is available here.

Excessive use of pesticides are very dangerous to human health, to the environment and it is misleading to claim they are vital  to ensuring food security

The Special Rapporteur on the right to food, Hilal Elver, and the Special Rapporteur on Toxics, Baskut Tuncak, told the Human Rights Council in Geneva that widely divergent standards of production, use and protection from hazardous pesticides in different countries are creating double standards, which are having a serious impact on human rights.

The Special Rapporteurs pointed to research showing that pesticides were responsible for an estimated 200,000 acute poisoning deaths each year. The overwhelming number of fatalities, some 99%, occurred in developing countries where health, safety and environmental regulations were weaker.

Chronic exposure to pesticides has been linked to cancer, Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s diseases, hormone disruption, developmental disorders and sterility. Farmers and agricultural workers, communities living near plantations, indigenous communities and pregnant women and children are particularly vulnerable to pesticide exposure and require special protections.

The experts particularly emphasized the obligation of States to protect the rights of children from hazardous pesticides. They noted the high number of children killed or injured by food contaminated with pesticides, particularly through accidental poisonings, the prevalence of diseases and disabilities linked to chronic exposure at a young age, and reports on the exposure to hazardous pesticides of children working in global food supply chains, which is one of the worst forms of child labour.

The experts warn that certain pesticides can persist in the environment for decades and pose a threat to the entire ecological system on which food production depends. The excessive use of pesticides contaminates soil and water sources, causing loss of biodiversity, destroying the natural enemies of pests, and reducing the nutritional value of food. The impact of such overuse also imposes staggering costs on national economies around the world.

The experts say the use of neonicotinoid pesticides is particularly worrying because they are accused of being responsible for a systematic collapse in the number of bees around the world. Such a collapse, they say, threatens the very basis of agriculture as 71% of crop species are bee-pollinated.

Without harmonized, stringent regulations on the production, sale and acceptable levels of pesticide use, the burden of the negative effects of pesticides is felt by poor and vulnerable communities in countries that have less stringent enforcement mechanisms

While acknowledging that certain international treaties currently offer protection from the use of a few pesticides, they stressed that a global treaty to regulate the vast majority of them throughout their life cycle does not yet exist, leaving a critical gap in the human rights protection framework.

The Special Rapporteurs point to denials by the agroindustry of the hazards of certain pesticides, the scale of the impacts, as well as the inappropriate shifting of blame to farmers for misusing its products. They express concern about aggressive, unethical marketing tactics that remain unchallenged, and huge sums spent by the powerful chemical industry to influence policymakers and contest scientific evidence.

It is time to overturn the myth that pesticides are necessary to feed the world and create a global process to transition toward safer and healthier food and agricultural production

The Special Rapporteur on Food highlights developments in agroecology, which replaces chemicals with biology, saying its approaches are capable of delivering sufficient yields to feed and nourish the entire world population, without undermining the rights of future generations to adequate food and health. And the Special Rapporteur on Toxics points to examples of where safer alternatives to hazardous pesticides and other toxic chemicals were developed and adopted only after strong regulatory pressures by States on industry.

More Information

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