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Many people are unaware of the fact that our bodies are contaminated with synthetic chemicals that weren’t there in pre-industrial times. Some of these chemicals are now banned, but stick around as they take decades to break down, if at all. Others are still in use in furniture or even cosmetics.

More than ten years ago, during the debate which led to the creation of the EU’s current chemicals law REACH, WWF`s DETOX campaign carried out blood analyses that found known harmful chemicals such as PCBs, brominated flame retardants and the fluorinated organic chemicals PFOS and PFOA present in all three generations of families from 12 European countries.

In 2017 the European Human Biomonitoring Initiative (HBM4EU) was started, in order to understand more about our ‘body burden’ of synthetic chemicals. CHEM Trust is a stakeholder in this project, and has been involved in recommending priority substances for analysis; for example, our proposal to add some UV filters (the benzophenones) to the analysis was accepted in the in the 2nd priority list of chemicals to be investigated. [continue reading…]

This International Women’s Day, we want to highlight the work of one woman in particular who had a significant impact on the field of endocrine disrupting chemicals, Dr Theo Colborn (1927-2014).

A trained pharmacist, Colborn had an interest in wildlife from an early age. After completing her Master’s degree in science in 1981, she was awarded a PhD in Zoology in 1985 at the age of 58. Colborn undertook research on contaminants in the Great Lakes on the Canada-US border, and it was this research that demonstrated how endocrine disrupting chemicals were entering the environment and altering the development of wildlife. She co-authored the book ‘Our Stolen Future’, and in 2003 founded The Endocrine Disruption Exchange (TEDX) in the US, a non-profit organisation which aims to reduce the production and use of hormone disrupting chemicals.

We sat down with co-founder of CHEM Trust, Elizabeth Salter Green, to talk about the impact that Theo had on the field. Elizabeth previously worked as Director of the WWF-UK Toxics Programme, and has also worked for WWF’s European Policy Office, and for WWF International. Prior to WWF she worked for several years as a marine biologist, and co-authored the book “The Toxic Consumer”.

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Yesterday evening the UK House of Commons debated and narrowly approved the REACH Statutory Instrument (SI) which attempts to copy the EU’s REACH chemicals regulation into domestic UK law and create a new UK Chemicals Agency in the event of a no-deal Brexit.

Heavy criticisms of the SI were made from a cross-party group of MPs, though the debate culminated in approval of the SI by 297 votes for and 240 against. The Statutory Instrument still needs to be voted on by the House of Lords, and if approved it will be signed into law by the Minister.

The SI fails to ensure that UK controls on chemicals stay in line with those at the EU level, nor does it create adequate stakeholder engagement. However, these issues could be addressed through the UK Government adopting them as their policy.

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On Monday 11th February 2019 the EU finally launched a public consultation into the EU’s ineffective laws covering the use of chemicals in food contact materials such as packaging, pipes and kitchen utensils.

As we have highlighted in the past, the current laws do not properly protect public health, as many materials – like paper, card, inks and glues – are not controlled by harmonised EU laws, and where harmonised laws do exist (like for plastic packaging), these laws are too weak.

Researchers have found coloured napkins leaching carcinogenic chemicals, pizza boxes contaminated with hormone disrupting bisphenol A (BPA) and packaging of microwave popcorn that contains persistent PFAS chemicals that accumulate in our blood. [continue reading…]

Resources to protect the UK public from hidden chemicals in consumer products are shockingly low, according to new data obtained through Freedom of Information requests.

Campaigners at environmental charity CHEM Trust asked 164 councils across the UK [1] how much they spent on monitoring consumer products for hazardous chemicals in the past five years, how many products were tested, and how many of those were found to breach legal limits [2].

The results reveal a postcode lottery for consumer health and environmental protection.

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Phthalates can make up to 50% of the composition of a PVC plastic toy, like this football.

Phthalates are a well-known problematic group of chemicals for human health, which is why some of the uses of certain phthalates in toys and other children’s products are partly restricted in the EU. However, this does not mean that adults and children are not exposed to them from other sources. They have a wide variety of uses and are found in everyday consumer products such as plastic packaging, carpets and still even in toys.

In fact just this week it has been reported that a joint customs and market surveillance operation by four EU countries has found that of 104 samples of toys it checked, more than a third contained illegal levels of phthalates.

Certain phthalates have already been found to be associated with the disruption of  reproductive organ development in boys. However, two recent studies have found that exposure to these chemicals in the womb can have an impact on the language development of children and the early onset of female puberty.

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Today saw the publication of a draft Political Declaration, setting out the framework for a future relationship between the EU and the UK. The declaration, which will guide negotiations following the UK’s departure from the EU, includes a commitment to ‘explore the possibility of co-operation of the UK with the European Chemicals Agency (ECHA)‘, and states that the UK ‘will consider aligning with Union rules in relevant areas‘.

CHEM Trust warmly welcomes this commitment, and has been calling for the UK to maintain close alignment to REACH since negotiations commenced two years ago. The UK Government has already called for associate membership of ECHA, in a speech by Theresa May in March. In our view, if the UK does commit to be fully aligned with EU chemicals laws, then it is in the EU27’s interest to permit UK (non-voting) participation in REACH. [continue reading…]

It has already taken many years of debate for the EU to agree on criteria for identifying endocrine disrupting pesticides and biocides as a first step for regulatory controls. However, exposure to endocrine disrupting chemicals (EDCs) from various other sources, including from food contact materials, cosmetics and toys are leading to concerns about impacts on  health  and the environment. In 2017 the EU Commission announced that it would develop a “new strategy to minimise exposures of EU citizens to endocrine disrupters beyond pesticides and biocides’.

Today, the EU Commission published the Communication `Towards a comprehensive EU framework on endocrine disrupters´. Instead of proposing steps for closing current policy gaps, it  opens up a new process of consultation by starting a ‘REFIT’ regulatory fitness check of EU laws relating to EDCs. It does not contain any specific measures to reduce exposures which CHEM Trust proposed as a priority in our submission to the previous Commission consultation on the issue this summer.

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Scary children’s mask, containing 45% of hazardous DEHP; legal limit 0.1%, notified to RAPEX by Germany

Every day people across the UK and Europe buy millions of products, taking for granted that these goods are safe, free from illegal levels of hazardous chemicals. Authorities across the EU test products like toys, to check if laws are being broken, and if they are then they notify an EU-wide safety service, RAPEX. For example, the halloween mask above, packed full of the banned reproductive toxin DEHP.

The UK is currently part of the RAPEX system, but a CHEM Trust investigation has found that UK consumers are highly dependent on other EU countries for assurance that products on the UK market are safe, as the UK itself notifies very few products. [continue reading…]

Paper used as a food contact material

For over four years CHEM Trust has been calling for the EU to review its ineffective laws regulating chemicals in chemicals in Food Contact Materials (FCM) like food packaging. On September 24th, the European Commission invited a wide range of stakeholders to a workshop in Brussels to (finally!) launch this review.

As we have highlighted in the past, the current laws do not properly protect public health, as many materials – like paper, card, inks and glues – are not controlled by harmonised EU laws, and where harmonised laws do exist (like for plastic packaging), these laws are too weak. [continue reading…]