Friday

25th Sep 2020

EU experts agree pesticide may damage unborn children

  • The two pesticides are heavily-used in Spain. Chlorpyrifos has been approved at an EU level since 2006 - but eight states have banned, or never authorised, its use: Denmark, Finland, Germany, Ireland, Latvia, Lithuania, Slovenia and Sweden (Photo: Marcos Garcia Rey)

There are no safe levels for exposure to the pesticides chlorpyrifos and chlorpyrifos-methyl, dubbed 'the most dangerous you've never heard of', EU experts have said in an unprecedented preliminary-finding into the pesticide - suggesting an EU-wide ban is a step closer.

EUobserver reported earlier this year how the pesticides had been linked to brain damage, and no discernible safe human dosage-level.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Support quality EU news

Get instant access to all articles — and 20 years of archives. 14-day free trial.

... or subscribe as a group

Chlorpyrifos is used to kill insects on growing vegetables and fruit.

Now experts from EU member states and staff at the European Food Safety Agency (EFSA) have published an unprecedented statement on the two controversial pesticides, believed to cause brain damage on children whose mothers have been exposed during pregnancy.

In a 2 August, the EFSA announced the pesticides do not meet the criteria for a renewed approval.

The present approvals expire in January 2020.

First time ever EFSA publish preliminary findings

An EFSA spokesperson told Norwegian daily Dagbladet this was the first time the body had ever published preliminary statements by experts, before an ongoing peer-review has been finalised.

This unprecedented move was triggered by a request from the EU Commission on 1 July - following pressure from NGOs and publicity by the journalist team behind 'Chlorpyrifos – the Unknown Pesticide' initiated by Investigative Reporting Denmark .

According to the experts, a genotoxic potential for chlorpyrifos cannot be ruled out.

They deem the label "may damage unborn child" to be appropriate. Utlimately, the criteria applicable to human health are not met, a 28-page statement summarises.

Based on what they term a 'conservatively-based' approach, the experts came to the same conclusion for the closely-related chlorpyrifos-methyl. All experts but one (not identified) agreed.

Final decision still to come

Although seemingly clear in message, and unprecedented in format, the two statements are not yet the final word.

Either a renewed approval, or a ban of the pesticides, will in the end not be decided by EFSA, but by a standing committee of representatives from EU member states and the commission, after another meeting of experts, scheduled for September.

It is believed a proposed final decision will be published in October, and then voted on by the committee in December.

Preliminary proposals on the future for chlorpyrifos and chlorpyrifos-methyl have been circulated among member states' experts since 2017, but not released to the public.

A request for access submitted by this reporter was turned down by the EFSA as recently as 29 July, and earlier by the Swedish Supreme Court of Administration in May this year.

In both cases the denial of access was led by objections from Spain, acting as reporting member state on the future of the two pesticides.

Spain is a heavy-user of the pesticides, according to the El Confidencial Spanish contribution to the' investigation.

Investigation

The most dangerous pesticide you've never heard of

Scientists say there is no acceptable dose to avoid brain damage. Its use is banned in several European countries. Yet its residues are found in fruit baskets, on dinner plates, and in human urine samples from all over Europe.

New pesticides committee begins work on EU approvals

The new European Parliament committee will try to restore citizens' trust in the procedure after the glyphosate affair. Its 30 members have some experience on pesticide issues - but different positions.

Doubts over EU chemical agency after weedkiller study

Green MEPs and health pressure groups said the European Chemicals Agency could be suffering from conflicts of interest, after it said there wasn't enough evidence to prove that the world's most widely used weedkiller causes cancer.

Investigation

EU proposes pesticide ban, but key documents still secret

Time is running out for chlorpyrifos, the pesticide which is a cause of brain damage to human fetuses and newly-born children. The EU Commission and the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) have both stated approval should not be renewed.

Analysis

China's carbon pledge at UN sends 'clear message' to US

China's pledge to become carbon neutral before 2060 is "good news" for Europe, but it sends a clear message to Washington ahead of the US election - in which climate change has become a significant aspect for voters.

Feature

The 150 random French citizens advising Macron

Some 150 randomly-picked men and women make up Emmanuel Macron's Citizens' Climate Convention. This week Macron invited them to the Élysée Palace and promised - nearly - all of their wishes would come true .

France shuts oldest reactor amid Macron climate pledges

France's oldest nuclear power plant finally closed on Tuesday, one day after president Emmanuel Macron pledged to speed up the country's transition to a greener economy responding to the proposals from the French citizens' convention on climate.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Council meets Belarusian opposition leader Svetlana Tichanovskaja
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Region to invest DKK 250 million in green digitalised business sector
  3. UNESDAReducing packaging waste – a huge opportunity for circularity
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersCOVID-19 halts the 72nd Session of the Nordic Council in Iceland
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersCivil society a key player in integration
  6. UNESDANext generation Europe should be green and circular

Latest News

  1. Berlin repeats support for EU human rights sanctions
  2. China's carbon pledge at UN sends 'clear message' to US
  3. Far right using pandemic to win friends in Germany
  4. Visegrad countries immediately push back on new migration pact
  5. Why no EU progress on Black Lives Matter?
  6. EU migration pact to deter asylum
  7. 'Era of EU naivety ends', MEP pledges on foreign meddling
  8. Anti-mask protesters pose challenge for EU authorities

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersNEW REPORT: Eight in ten people are concerned about climate change
  2. UNESDAHow reducing sugar and calories in soft drinks makes the healthier choice the easy choice
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersGreen energy to power Nordic start after Covid-19
  4. European Sustainable Energy WeekThis year’s EU Sustainable Energy Week (EUSEW) will be held digitally!
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic states are fighting to protect gender equality during corona crisis
  6. UNESDACircularity works, let’s all give it a chance

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us