Sunday

7th Mar 2021

Opinion

Endocrine disruptors fight shows power of industry lobby

  • Activists lobbying the Commission in Brussels, who they say have been deliberately dragging their feet over the hormone disruptor issue. (Photo: EDC-free Europe)

The debate on endocrine disruptors (EDCs) made it once again onto the agenda of the European Parliament this week. But the message this week was absolutely clear: MEPs will not abide by the rules of industry lobbies. Chemicals that disrupt hormone systems must be banned - no exceptions.

The sheer number of everyday products containing chemicals that disrupt hormone systems of both humans and animals is staggering.

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These harmful chemicals can be found in plastics, food containers, cosmetics, electronics, toys, sports shoes and the rubber granules used on synthetic sports fields. EDCs are ever more present in nature, as several approved pesticides with hormone disrupting properties continue to be abundantly sprayed on vegetables and fruits.

Hundreds of scientific studies have demonstrated that exposure to EDCs is harmful to our health, even in small doses. Given the rapid increase in associated ailments, such as congenital disorders in children, thyroid dysfunctions, fertility problems, testicular cancer and breast cancer, it is of vital importance that we protect ourselves, our animals and our environment from exposure by banning EDCs altogether.

300,000 citizens say 'no' to EDCs

And that is exactly what 300,000 European citizens have called for by signing a petition urging the European Parliament to reject the Commission's latest proposal on this issue. And they are not alone: health and environmental interest groups have consistently warned against the dangers of exposure to these toxic substances. These groups, which have mobilised hundreds of thousands of concerned individuals, all demand a total ban.

Although science is clear on the urgency of the matter, the Commission does not seem to be in a hurry as it appears to be more concerned with protecting big businesses over the interests of people, animals and the environment.

One would think that an estimated €163 billion social bill resulting from EDC-exposure would prompt the Commission to take action. Instead, the Commission has been trying every trick in the book to keep EDCs on the market.

Scientific caution...or stonewalling?

First, the Commission endlessly debated which scientific criteria it would adopt for the identification of EDCs. The Commission then delayed publishing the scientific criteria, with the goal of keeping EDCs on the market for as long as possible despite a European Court of Justice ruling stating that these delays breached EU law. Demonstrations by health campaigners and consumer groups, a European Parliament resolution condemning the Commission and even a motion of censure - which was only withdrawn at the very last moment - were needed to get the Commission moving.

Finally, the Commission proposed such a high burden of proof that many EDCs would go unidentified and potential disruptors escape scrutiny altogether.

By means of a derogation, the Commission believed it had found a way to keep pesticides which disrupt hormone systems out of the regulation. This last move in the EDC saga did not go unnoticed by the European Parliament, which voted it down this week.

The Parliament contends that the Commission exceeded its remit by issuing the derogation. Pushing for derogations by means of illegal procedures renders parliament's involvement impossible.

Yesterday´s vote shows that an absolute majority of MEPs stand for a new set of criteria that protects consumers and the environment. With this result, the call for new criteria that will sufficiently protect us was loud and clear. The Commission has had more than enough opportunities to fulfil its obligations. It is time to abolish EDC´s, staving off the interference of industry lobbies that has put money before the lives of millions of people and animals.

Anja Hazekamp is an MEP with the European United Left - Nordic Green Left (GUE/NGL) group in the European Parliament. She is a member of the Dutch Party for the Animals.

Disclaimer

The views expressed in this opinion piece are the author's, not those of EUobserver.

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