Monday

25th Sep 2017

Doctors and NGOs slam EU bill on hormone disruptors

  • The EDC-free Europe coalition protested outside the European Commission's headquarters on Monday (13 June). (Photo: EDC-free Europe)

The European Commission took its time to regulate endocrine disruptors, chemicals widely used in industry that experts believe can increase the risk of cancer, obesity and other health problems. The EU executive was due to present the proposal two and a half years ago.

But the text, which was finally put out on Wednesday (15 June), fell well short of the expectations of doctors and civil society.

Thank you for reading EUobserver!

Subscribe now and get 40% off for an annual subscription. Sale ends soon.

  1. €90 per year. Use discount code EUOBS40%
  2. or €15 per month
  3. Cancel anytime

EUobserver is an independent, not-for-profit news organization that publishes daily news reports, analysis, and investigations from Brussels and the EU member states. We are an indispensable news source for anyone who wants to know what is going on in the EU.

We are mainly funded by advertising and subscription revenues. As advertising revenues are falling fast, we depend on subscription revenues to support our journalism.

For group, corporate or student subscriptions, please contact us. See also our full Terms of Use.

If you already have an account click here to login.

Some 800 chemicals that are known or suspected to interfere with hormone receptors are found in a wide range of everyday products - from toys to computer keyboards, electrical cables and shopping receipts.

According to the Endocrine Society, the oldest and largest organisation of scientists and doctors caring for people with hormone-related conditions, more than 1,300 studies that have tied exposure to these substances to diabetes, obesity, infertility, bone disease, cancer and neurological disorders.

Commission admits 'mistake'

The EU already has regulations for the use of other types of chemicals. But it is lacking a system for classification of endocrine disruptors.

Health commissioner Vytenis Andriukaitis proposed bringing endocrine disruptors under the regulation of two existing laws - one covering plant protection, the other regulating "biocidal" substances such as rat poison and disinfectant.

"The scientific criteria presented today guarantee that we maintain the high level of protection of human health and of the environment which is set in our legislation on plant protection and biocidal products, some of the strictest in the world,” said Andriukaitis.

But the proposal received a cold reception from the Endocrine Society as well as EDC-free Europe, a coalition of 65 public interest groups. The two said the criteria for including endocrine disruptors set the bar so high that only a few chemicals would fall into the scope of EU regulation.

Lisette van Vliet from the Health and Environment Alliance (HEAL), a member of EDC-free Europe, condemned the commission for requiring that a substance must be ”known to cause” adverse health effects before it can be classified as an endocrine disruptor.

”The previous acts had only required that a substance ’may’ cause such effects,” Van Vliet said.

Ake Bergman, a member of the Endocrine Society, said such a benchmark would be all but impossible to attain. ”No other legislation requires such strict causality. That’s not the way cancer legislation works, for instance,” Bergman told EUobserver.

Van Vliet was also worried that the commission had twisted the WHO’s definition of endocrine disruptors by saying in its press materials that they were substances that had an adverse effect on human health.

The WHO does not limit its definition to human health, but speaks in general of organisms, as well as their progeny and sub-populations.

A commission spokesman said there was a ”mistake” in its press release, which oversimplified the definition to highlight the commission’s concern for human health.

The commission’s legislative proposals mention both organisms and human health, the official noted. A technical expert clarified that the commission is also concerned about the wider environment.

Greens rally against 'shameful' bill

Doctors and NGOs said the commission had opened the door to the use of banned substances in plant protection products, by saying that derogations would be allowed when the risk of exposure to humans was negligible, for instance, when the substances were used in laboratory environments.

The commission said the exception was motivated by the need to protect scientific research.

”Science has evolved a lot since the plant product regulation was adopted in 2009,” a commission spokeswoman said.

Neither scientists nor NGOs were convinced by her argument.

The commission was due to present a proposal for criteria to determine endocrine disruptors in 2013. Sweden sued the EU executive in 2014 for failing to do so and won the case in 2015.

According to French journalist Stephane Horel, the commission dragged its feet in order to protect the chemical industry. Horel, in cooperation with transparency watchdog Corporate Europe Observatory, published a report in May 2015 mapping the industry’s lobbying campaign.

The long overdue regulation may now take additional time to come into place.

French socialist MEPs sent out a statement on Wednesday saying the proposal needs to be altered. The Green group’s health spokesman, Bas Eickhout, said he would rally his colleagues to veto the ”shameful” bill.

Focus

EU adopts hormone disruptor norms

A European Commission proposal on how to define endocrine disruptors was voted through on Tuesday, after a year of blockage. A French turn-around allowed the decision.

Europe holds off on storing CO2

Most reports looking at long-term climate scenarios agree that some form of carbon capture and storage is needed. However, its deployment has been stalled in the EU.

Analysis

Bayer-Monsanto merger could reshape EU food sector

Mega-mergers in the food sector have become commonplace, but EU laws do little to help it keep check on the impact this could have on the environment, public health, and food security.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. EU2017EEEU Finance Ministers Agreed to Develop New Digital Taxation Rules
  2. Mission of China to the EUGermany Stands Ready to Deepen Cooperation With China
  3. World VisionFirst Ever Young People Consultation to Discuss the Much Needed Peace in Europe
  4. European Jewish CongressGermany First Country to Adopt Working Definition of Antisemitism
  5. EU2017EEFour Tax Initiatives to Modernise the EU's Tax System
  6. Dialogue PlatformResponsibility in Practice: Gulen & Islamic Thought
  7. Counter BalanceHuman Rights Concerns Over EIB Loan to the Trans Anatolian Pipeline Project
  8. Mission of China to the EUChina Leads the Global Clean Energy Transition
  9. CES - Silicones EuropeFrom Baking Moulds to Oven Mitts, Silicones Are a Key Ingredient in Kitchens
  10. Martens CentreFor a New Europeanism: How to Put the Motto "Unity in Diversity" Into Practice
  11. Access MBAGet Ahead With an MBA Degree. Top MBA Event in Brussels
  12. Idealist QuarterlyIdealist Quarterly Event: Building Fearless Democracies With Gerald Hensel

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Mission of China to the EUPresident Xi Urges Bigger Global Role for Emerging Economies
  2. EU2017EEAre We Socially Insured in the Future of Work?
  3. European Jewish CongressFrench Authorities to Root Out "Societal Antisemitism" After Jewish Family Assaulted
  4. European Federation of Local Energy CompaniesClean Energy for All? On 10.10 Top-Level Speakers Present the Clean Energy Package
  5. UNICEFUp to Three Quarters of Children Face Abuse & Exploitation on Mediterranean Migration Routes
  6. Swedish EnterprisesEurope Under Challenge; Recipe for a Competitive EU
  7. European Public Health AllianceCall to International Action to Break Deadlock on Chronic Diseases Crisis
  8. CES - Silicones EuropePropelling the construction revolution with silicones
  9. EU2017EEEU 2018 Budget: A Case of Three Paradoxes
  10. ACCAUS 'Dash for Gas' Could Disrupt Global Gas Markets
  11. Swedish Enterprises“No Time to Lose” Film & Debate on How Business & Politics Can Fight Climate Change
  12. European Free AllianceSave The Date!! 26.09 - Coppieters Awards To... Carme Forcadell