World Health Organization International Programme on Chemical Safety, 2016
We are exposed to various chemicals every day, through multiple routes such as ingestion, inhalation and skin contact. But what exactly do we know about the public health impact of chemicals? And equally as important: what don’t we know yet?
The new report from the World Health Organization (WHO), Public health impacts of chemicals: knowns and unknowns, provides insights into these questions. It also provides concrete examples of effective interventions to prevent death and diseases caused by chemicals, and the economic benefits to be gained. It estimates that 1.3 million lives and 43 million healthy life-years were lost in 2012 due to exposures to selected chemicals.
However, data are only available for a small number of chemical exposures and people are exposed to many more chemicals every day. Unintentional poisonings are estimated to cause 193,000 deaths annually, with the major part being from preventable chemical exposures.
Sources and more information
Public health impact of chemicals – knowns and unknowns, WHO, 27 July 2016.
An estimated 12.6 million deaths each year are attributable to unhealthy environments
Quantifying environmental health impacts
The main message emerging from this new comprehensive global assessment is that premature death and disease can be prevented through healthier environments – and to a significant degree. Analysing the latest data on the environment-disease nexus and the devastating impact of environmental hazards and risks on global health, backed up by expert opinion, this report covers more than 100 diseases and injuries.
An estimated 12.6 million deaths each year are attributable to unhealthy environments, WHO, MARCH 2016
The analysis shows that 23% of global deaths (and 26% of deaths among children under five) are due to modifiable environmental factors. Sixty-eight percent of these attributable deaths and 56% of attributable DALYs could be estimated with evidence-based comparative risk assessment methods, the assessments of other environmental exposures were completed through expert opinion. Stroke, ischaemic heart disease, diarrhoea and cancers head the list. People in low-income countries bear the greatest disease burden, with the exception of noncommunicable diseases.
Preventing disease through healthy environments: a global assessment of the burden of disease from environmental risks, WHO, MARCH 2016
These assessments should add impetus to coordinating global efforts to promote healthy environments – often through well-established, cost-effective interventions. This analysis will inform those who want to better understand the transformational spirit of the Sustainable Development Goals agreed by Heads of State in September 2015. The results of the analysis underscore the pressing importance of stronger intersectoral action to create healthier environments that will contribute to sustainably improving the lives of millions around the world.
Endocrine disruptors: ‘Better Regulation’ or better public health?
Endocrine disruptors pose a substantial risk to public health, yet the European Commission has dawdled time and again on introducing measures that would finally limit their use. Now is the time to put this right, write Genon Jensen, Director of HEAL, and Michael Warhurst, Executive Director of CHEM Trust.
Endocrine disruptors: ‘Better Regulation’ or better public health?, EurActiv, Mar 2, 2016.
Over twenty years ago, scientists began to be concerned about chemicals that could disrupt our body’s sensitive hormone (or endocrine) system, which are particularly crucial in development and reproduction, also known as endocrine disrupting chemicals (EDCs). In spite of the fact that chemicals with these properties are found in everyday products, the EU still has not agreed the criteria to identify such EDC chemicals.
Without such criteria the people of Europe – and our environment – are not being properly protected and concerns continue to mount in medical and cancer communities and among leading global endocrine experts.
EU legislation on controlling the use of pesticides and biocides stated that the European Commission should determine these scientific criteria for EDC identification by December 2013. Due to the Commission’s failure to publish criteria by that deadline, Sweden launched a legal challenge in the European Court of Justice.
Its December 2015 verdict stated that the executive was in breach of EU law and that the criteria to determine endocrine disrupting properties can only be done in an objective manner, based on the scientific data in relation to the endocrine system, independently of any other consideration. It ruled there was no obligation to do an impact assessment.
It is now 2016. We welcome the European Commission’s promise to finally propose the criteria “by the summer”. However, in the meantime the Commission has prioritised the Better Regulation approach with carrying out impact assessments that focus on cost to businesses. This is why we are concerned about how they will select the EDC criteria to propose. The executive seems to be putting much more effort into speeding up the impact assessment of different options for criteria than into the scientific justification of the criteria themselves.
In our view, it is clear that the best criteria for identifying endocrine disrupters are those in option 3 of the executive’s roadmap, using the definition from the World Health Organisation, with three categories (rankings based on the weight of evidence), similar to the current EU identification system for carcinogens, mutagens and reprotoxic compounds.
If the European Commission was looking for a quick way to follow the court ruling, the next step would obviously be to go ahead and adopt the draft criteria proposal from June 2013, which are already the product of a great deal of Commission-led, Commission-funded, and member state expert work and deliberation. To date, we have not yet heard any specific argument from the executive against the scientific validity of these identification criteria.
The Commission likes to stress the pioneering work on the EDC criteria, as do we. Such criteria would make Europe the first in the world to have official identification anchored in law.
But if the criteria finally proposed by European civil servants, and chosen by our national government officials, are not good at identifying the hormone disruptors to which we are exposed, and which pose a threat to our health and environment, our pioneering efforts will have ended in failure.
The good news is that scientific assessments and tools are already available, even though there is still the need for more and better tests and screens. EDCs have already been identified under REACH according to the WHO definition. This demonstrates that EDC identification is possible and workable in a regulatory context.
It is important to note that the identification of a chemical as an EDC is just the first stage of a regulatory process, which does not mean a total immediate ban. In the case of pesticides, if there is no safer alternative and a chemical is still needed due to a “serious danger to plant health”, then its use can continue.
For a biocide, use can continue if a ban would lead to a “disproportionate negative impact”. In the REACH authorisation process, the regulators can consider a socioeconomic assessment of the consequences of use versus non-use. But any decision-making on the necessity versus problems of the uses will not work well if we have not identified the EDCs correctly in the first place.
HEAL and CHEM Trust have joined over 60 groups in the EDC Free Europe coalition to write to all 28 environment and health ministers prior to the next Environment Council meeting this Friday (4 March). We asked them to defend the law they made in order to protect our health and to demand that the Commission immediately complies with the ruling of the ECJ.
This could mean picking up the draft scientific criteria proposed in June 2013 and putting it through the internal Commission consultation as soon as possible. It would use valuable work that’s already been completed, and Europe could move on and start transitioning to sustainable agriculture and healthier farmers and societies.
Report from Physicians in the Crop-Sprayed Villages regarding Dengue-Zika, microcephaly, and mass-spraying with chemical poisons
Report Main points:
Experts debunk claim blaming larvicide, not Zika, for microcephaly, cbsnews, February 16, 2016.
Dengue epidemic in Brazil persists endemically (on an ongoing basis) due to the marginalisation and misery of millions of people, especially in Northeast Brazil. On top of that, Zika virus, a similar disease although more benign, is now spreading.
A dramatic increase of congenital malformations, especially microcephaly in newborns, was detected and quickly linked to the Zika virus by the Brazilian Ministry of Health. However, they fail to recognise that in the area where most sick persons live, a chemical larvicide producing malformations in mosquitoes has been applied for 18 months, and that this poison (pyroproxyfen) is applied by the State on drinking water used by the affected population.
Previous Zika epidemics did not cause birth defects in newborns, despite infecting 75% of the population in those countries. Also, in other countries such as Colombia there are no records of microcephaly; however, there are plenty of Zika cases.
The pyroproxyfen being used (as recommended by WHO) is manufactured by Sumimoto Chemical, a Japanese subsidiary of Monsanto.
Brazilian doctors (Abrasco) are claiming that the strategy of chemical control is contaminating the environment as well as people, that it is not decreasing the amount of mosquitoes, and that this strategy is in fact a commercial manoeuvre from the chemical poisons industry, deeply integrated into Latin American ministries of health as well as WHO and PAHO.
Massive spreading using planes, as the governments of Mercosur are considering, is criminal, useless, and a political manoeuvre to simulate that actions are taken. The basis of the progress of the disease lies in inequality and poverty, and the best defence are community-based actions.
The last strategy deployed in Brazil, and which might be replicated in all our countries, is the use of GM mosquitoes —a total failure, except for the company supplying mosquitoes.
Living in the “Green Capital”, Bristolians really need to sort this out and move with the times
TO: BRISTOL CITY COUNCIL & GEORGE FERGUSON, MAYOR OF BRISTOL
Please ban the spraying of Monsanto’s Roundup and other glyphosate herbicides on the streets and parks of Bristol.
Why is this important?
Bristol Council currently uses four glyphosate herbicides including Monsanto’s Roundup on our streets and parks. This is despite the fact that the World Health Organisation (WHO) has identified glyphosate as likely to cause cancer in humans. The WHO finding sits alongside a wealth of existing evidence that raises alarming questions marks over the long term safety of exposure to glyphosate both on its own and in combination with other chemicals found in formulas such as Roundup.
The use of glyphosates has already been banned or restricted in 8 countries. It is not acceptable that ourselves, our children and the animals we share this city with are being routinely exposed to these chemicals whether we like it or not.
If Bristol is to have any credentials as the current European Green Capital, it must exercise the precautionary principle and follow the example of cities such as Chicago, Paris and Rotterdam by banning this spraying in public places.
This is a matter of great importance for those of us who care about each other’s health and the health of our children, our cats, our dogs and all the flora and fauna of this city, of course including our beloved bees.
For more information see this article from The Bristol Cable.
There are viable safe alternatives to glyphosates. The Netherlands have outright banned glyphosates in public spaces and are using a hot water treatment instead. A hot water and foam method is also available in the UK and Bristol Council is already aware that this can be a more effective alternative than hot water on its own. Glyphosates are the cheapest option but we must send the message loud and clear that value is not just about price and that the health and safety issues around glyphosate render its ‘cheap and easy’ status irrelevant. Other effective methods may cost more in cash terms but represent far better value to local residents. Using a formula such as Roundup in our public spaces is simply unacceptable no matter how cheap and quick it makes the task of urban weed management.