The European Commission should amend its proposed criteria on endocrine disruptors and adopt a horizontal approach covering not only pesticides but also other products, a new report says.
In June 2016, the European Commission presented a long-awaited science-based set of criteria for identifying substances with endocrine disrupting properties of plant protection products and biocides [See background].
In December last year, the EU Standing Committee on Plants, Animals, Food and Feed (PAFF) met to vote on the proposed endocrine disruptors criteria but no agreement was reached as member states are deeply divided over the issue.
A new report carried out by the Centre for International Environmental Law (CIEL) and ClientEarth makes things more complicated, claiming that the Commission’s criteria should not be limited to substances contained in pesticides and biocides but rather expand to other sectors.
For the CIEL and ClientEarth, the only solution to keep endocrine disruptors out of food, water, toys and household products is a single system to identify these chemicals.
Referring to the 7th Environmental Action Programme, the environmental NGOs claim that the EU executive was wrong to set scientific criteria exclusive for relevant chemicals in pesticides and biocides as these dangerous substances could be present in all aspects of people’s everyday life which are covered by other EU regulations.
“Hormone disruptors (EDCs) lurk in all kinds of other products. They contaminate the water we drink, the toys our children play with, and the soaps and cleaners we use on a daily basis,” the report says.
The NGOs, therefore, urge the Commission to amend its proposed draft criteria in such a way that would apply across all relevant EU law irrespective of the sector.
Particularly, the environmentalist NGOs suggest the adoption of a horizontal approach covering the Registration, Evaluation, Authorisation and Restriction of Chemicals (REACH), the Cosmetics Regulation, the Water Framework Directive, the Toys Directive, the Medical Devices Regulations, and the Food Contact Materials Regulation.
These regulations already contain provisions restricting the use of endocrine disruptors but have yet to provide identification criteria (e.g. the proposed regulations regarding medical devices).
The report notes that there are regulations, such as the Regulation on the Registration, Evaluation, Authorisation and Restriction of Chemicals (REACH), which regulate endocrine disruptors as “substances of very high concern” on a case-by-case basis. In some cases, the law mentions EDCs without regulating their use, such as the Cosmetics Regulation or the Water Framework Directive.
ClientEarth lawyer Vito Buonsante said, “The Commission should look itself in the mirror and set out coherent criteria for identifying endocrine disruptors. These must work alongside other laws, for example on cosmetics, water, or chemicals in general. This is the only way to effectively protect people and the environment from hormone-harming chemicals.”
A problematic proposal
The report also warns that the executive’s proposal is “problematic” and it could further delay the identification of EDCs.
“Until horizontal criteria are developed as stipulated in the 7th EAP, EDCs cannot be regulated under other legislation. It will also delay the application of REACH to all relevant substances with endocrine-disrupting properties and the inclusion of these substances on the REACH candidate list.”
In addition, the NGOs claimed that the level of protection would be lowered because of the misapplication of criteria relevant for biocides and pesticides to other regulatory frameworks.
The report is also endorsed by MEPs from five political groups: Younous Omarjee from the Confederal Group of the European United Left – Nordic Green Left, Peirnicola Pedicini (Europe of Freedom and Direct Democracy Group- EFDD), Sirpa Pietikäinen (European People’s Party-EPP), Pavel Poc (Socialists and Democrats-S&D), and Michèle Rivasi (Greens).