Pressure grows on Commission to publish criteria on endocrine disruptors

Chemicals REACH scientist.JPG

The French parliament’s committee on European affairs has published a report on the European strategy on endocrine-disrupting chemicals which calls on the EU to react urgently to the matter.

The report states that public health is being challenged by the damaging affects posed by endocrine disruptors, leading to extra financial costs in the future for the health sector if appropriate policy action is not being taken.

The EU needs to publish both a new, comprehensive strategy on endocrine disruptors to boost public action as well as rapidly adopt a single definition on endocrine disruptors based on the hazards and not "on the notion of potency as has been put forward by industry," the committee said.

Known examples of endocrine-disrupting chemicals include phthalates (a plastic-softener), brominated flame retardants (often used in household textile or furniture) and metals like lead and mercury.

Some endocrine-disrupting chemicals occur naturally, while synthetic varieties can be found in pesticides, electronics, personal care products and cosmetics. They can also be found as additives or contaminants in food.

The European Commission had planned to publish a definition of endocrine disruptors in December 2013, but the definition has been delayed as Environment Commissioner Janez Poto?nik has said he wants the Commission to make an impact analysis first.

The delay in publishing criteria from the Commission's side, led the Swedish environment minister Lena Ek on Wednesday (26 February) to threaten to sue the Commission for breaching a bargaining agreement.

"If this is not done within two months, it's so serious from an environment and health point of view that we will follow up by suing the Commission," Ek said.

Génon Jensen, executive director at the NGO Health and Environment Alliance (HEAL), also called on the Commission to deliver on its promise and publish a strategy on endocrine disruptors as soon as possible.

"Postponing its publication until the new Commission would indicate to European citizens that bureaucratic procedures are more important than their health and the prevention of chronic diseases," Jensen said. 

"To reduce unnecessary health problems and healthcare costs, we need swift progress on endocrine-disrupting chemicals policy so as to start reducing people’s daily exposures to chemicals linked to chronic disease,” she added.

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.

  • 13 March 2014: Deadline to comment online on the European Food Safety Agency's (EFSA) public consultation document on the chemical compound Bisphenol A.
  • June 2018: Third REACH registration deadline for substances manufactured or imported in quantities of 1 tonne or more per year per manufacturer (1 to 100 tonnes)

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