This story, published on 5 September, has been updated to make clear the Commission’s draft criteria referred to biocidal products. Below is the updated story.
EU ministers adopted on Monday (4 September) the European Commission’s draft criteria for endocrine disruptors in biocidal products, laying the foundation for a comprehensive strategy to limit citizens’ exposure to harmful substances.
The EU voted to ban endocrine disruptors in 2009. But so far the ban has not come into effect due to a lack of criteria defining the chemicals that it should cover.
Endocrine disruptors are chemical substances that are suspected of triggering diseases such as cancer or diabetes and contributing to people becoming overweight or infertile through changes to the endocrine (or hormone) system.
They are commonly found in everyday plastic products, food packaging and agricultural chemicals and can be absorbed by the body in a number of ways.
Monday’s vote was the first step in the EU’s adoption of these criteria for biocides, following their adoption on 4 July for plant protection products (pesticides). They are based on the World Health Organisation’s (WHO) definition of known and presumed endocrine disruptors.
Biocides are products that kill or control unwanted or harmful organisms, such as insecticides (outside use as crop protection products), insect repellents and wood treatment products.
Health and Food Safety Commissioner Vytenis Andriukaitis hailed the vote as “a great success”.
“After months of discussion, we are advancing in the direction of the first regulatory system in the world with legally binding criteria to define what an endocrine disruptor is,” the Commissioner said.
The EU executive plans to use the same criteria to develop a comprehensive strategy to limit citizens’ exposure to endocrine disruptors, covering products such as toys, cosmetics and food packaging.
But the scientific basis of the criteria is not without its critics. French Green MEP Pascal Durand said in an interview with Ouest-France in July that excluding suspected endocrine disruptors from their scope undermined the EU’s precautionary principle.
Durand said he was also “strongly opposed to the exemptions granted to certain endocrine disruptors that act directly on the hormonal systems of plants. These molecules will be authorised by exemption, but they can also have effects on human health.”
The MEP blamed the influence of powerful chemical industry lobbies but said the Parliament could force a review of the criteria with a majority objection.
The criteria will now be passed on to the European Council and Parliament for examination, before final adoption by the Commission in three months’ time.