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03/12/2016

New chemicals added to SIN List

Science & Policymaking

New chemicals added to SIN List

Chemical waste plant [h080 Flickr]

Green chemicals NGO Chemsec included nearly 30 new chemicals on a list of harmful substances that the EU should regulate in order to curb health risks and water contamination.

Wednesday, (8 October), green chemical NGO ChemSec updated its SIN List or ‘Substitute It Now’ List of substances it has identified as Substances of Very High Concern (SVHC) on the basis of criteria defined by EU chemicals regulation REACH.

Chemicals considered harmful to health, and which are already restricted under EU rules, are increasingly being replaced by other products that exhibit similarly hazardous properties.

The review of newly available data is also showing that some currently unregulated chemical products deserve scrutiny and possible restrictions in order to avoid negative health impacts, adds the NGO.

Bisphenol A is already classified as a ‘presumed reprotoxin’ by the European Chemical Agency (ECHA) and, as such, could ultimately be listed as an SVHC and face authorization restrictions. Bisphenol S, used as an anticorrosive for plastics, and bisphenol F, used in coatings, are increasingly used instead. But studies show that exposure to both substitutes can also lead to impaired reproduction processes. Therefore, they should be the subject of restrictions, says ChemSec.

In total, 10 new substances suspected of being endocrine distruptors (EDCs) have been added to the list. They include several phthalates such as Diisodecylphthalate (DiDP) used as a lubricant, which, according to the NGO, can lead to disturbed reproduction and development in rodents and fish.

Talking to EurActiv, Dr Stephane Content, Manager at the European Council for Plasticisers and Intermediates, disagreed however. “DIDP has just been evaluated by ECHA and the Commission with the conclusion of no further risks identified and no additional risk management measures needed. The ChemSec SIN list does not provide scientific justification for the substances listed. If ChemSec has such data, then they should provide it to ECHA/relevant authorities.”

EU identification criteria for these substances have long been delayed, but Health and Food Safety Commissioner-designate Vytenis Andriukaitis confirmed during hearings that EDCs will be a key priority of his mandate.

Persistent, bioaccumulative and toxic (PBTs) chemicals, which degrade slowly and can even stay present in the environment for decades after being phased out, are also well represented in the updated list.

They include brominate flame retardants used in building materials, furniture, clothing and electronics. Newly added to the list, retardant decabromodiphenyl ethane has been detected in human hair and wildflife such as birds, dolphins and pandas, according to the NGO.

Separately, ChemSec also unveiled SINimilarity, a new research tool that can determine whether a substance exhibits properties similar to those of another substance on the SIN List. Users can search a database of 80,000 chemicals. In case similarities are detected, “we recommend further investigations before use”, concluded SIN List contributor Dr Lars Swanson.

Attending the SIN List launch conference, Geert Dancet, Executive Director of the European Chemicals Agency, agreed that the List and new research tool “could prove useful, especially when it comes to identifying possible substances for the ‘candidate list’, but it is ultimately up to the Member States and the Commission to make proposals”. 

Background

The endocrine system is a network of glands which regulates and controls the release and levels of hormones in the body.

Hormones are chemical messengers that are essential for the body to carry out functions such as metabolism, growth and development, sleep and mood. Only a tiny amount of hormone may be needed to trigger the intended action.

The endocrine system is complex and the interactions within this system which regulate hormonal release are dependent on a variety of biological and psychological factors.

Scientific knowledge of this system is still growing.

Imbalances and malfunctions of the endocrine system can result in well-known diseases such as diabetes and obesity, infertility and certain types of cancer.

Also, disruption of the endocrine system can cause birth defects and learning disabilities.

Further Reading