Sweden to sue the Commission for delaying hormone-affecting criteria

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Sweden's government is considering suing the European Commission for stalling on criteria which are required to stop hormone-affecting substances, says the minister for the environment, Lena Ek.

In December, the Commission was supposed to publish the necessary criteria for banning different endocrine-disrupting substances found in anti-bacterial agents for shoes and clothes.

However, Commissioner for the Environment Janez Poto?nik has delayed the clearance. According to Ek, Poto?nik has told the Swedish government that the Commission wants to make an impact analysis first.

The chemicals industry has previously protested the EU REACH chemicals laws that govern many of their products.

In an interview with EURACTIV in March last year, Ek said that she believed the Commission was "too slow" in moving to ban hazardous chemicals and would not hesitate to breach EU rules if REACH was not improved.

"We will follow up with a letter to the Commission where we will say that they should live up to what they have promised which has been agreed among member states," Ek told Sweden's Radio.

"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," the Swedish environment minister said.

Ek said she was especially worried about biocides, found in anti-bacterial agents for shoes and clothes, electronics and building materials. Biocides are under suspicion of having health-damaging consequences for pregnant women and children though the risks are difficult to assess.

It is unusual for the Swedish state to take the EU to court. This has only happened seven times in the past 20 years. Ek said the Swedish government was not criticising the Commission for the use of endocrine-disrupting chemicals in pesticides, only biocides.

"Biocides are being used in a greater number of products. And we have a clear agreement regarding this question. And we need to solve the biggest issue first," Ek stated.

The liberal minister added that hormone-affecting substances in general are "not good".

"We're going to sue the Commission because we have a very clear bargaining agreement. It's a written text, literal promises about what should be done and when. And this has not been done," Ek said.

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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