Industry lashes out at “alarmist” new chemicals report

The battle over REACH rages on with new results of blood tests
by the WWF immediately dismissed by the bromine industry. Test
results, it is argued, are “alarmist” and aimed at “creating public
anxiety”.

Results of blood tests carried out by the global nature
conservation organisation WWF on ministers from 13 EU countries
have come under attack from the bromine industry for their
“alarmist tone”. 

In a  report published on 19 October and entitled “Bad
blood?”, the WWF indicated that an average of 37 different
chemicals was found in the ministers’ blood during a test in June
2004. Many of these, the WWF said, are persistent, bio-accumulative
and cause disruptions in the hormone systems of humans and
wildlife. Some were found in species such as polar bears, dolphins
or birds of prey who live in environments remote from where the
chemicals are used.

The blood tests follow similar ones carried out on MEPs in
April this year (see EURACTIV, 22 April 2004). They serve the
WWF as a basis for its campaign to support the REACH proposal
to control chemical products in the EU.

The report was heavily criticised by the bromine industry who
regretted the “alarmist tone WWF usually uses to present its data”.
BSEF, an industry association, said the report is aimed at
“creating public anxiety” and that the levels of bromine-based
chemicals found in the ministers’ blood were “well within margins
of safety”. 

BSEF further cited an interview for
the Independent with Prof. John Henry – a leading
toxicologist at Imperial College in London – in which he stated
that the chemicals found by the WWF tests were in “extremely low
levels (…), well below the thresholds where they are likely to
cause immediate harm. The bottom line is that evidence of presence
is not evidence of harm. It’s good that we know these things and
that someone is alerting us to them, but it’s no good doing so in
an alarmist fashion.”

However, WWF maintains that many of the chemicals’ effects
over humans and wildlife are still “largely unknown”. “It is hard
to believe that legislators have been willing to allow this
uncontrolled experiment to continue for so many years,” said Karl
Wagner, Director of WWF’s DetoX Campaign.

The REACH proposal will be examined by Parliament in 2005.

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