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Following a legal letter from Leigh Day on behalf of CHEM Trust, the UK Government have announced today that they will re-instate a ban on pesticides with endocrine (hormone) disrupting properties in their no-deal Brexit laws.

The Government are claiming this is a drafting error, yet this European ban on endocrine disrupting pesticides has been a major focus of lobbying from pesticide companies and the US government for many years, so it is surprising that such an error could be made accidentally and not be spotted by those who work in the sector.

For example, an internal European Commission note of a meeting of the World Trade Organisation in July 2015 describes an “aggressive and well orchestrated attack” on EU policies on endocrine disrupters from the US Government, supported by 16 other governments including India and China.
European Commission notes on WTO EDC
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The UK Government has claimed that it would not weaken EU environmental laws when transferring them into UK law in the event of a no-deal Brexit, with Secretary of State Michael Gove stating that We will deliver a Green Brexit, where environmental standards are not only maintained but enhanced.

However, CHEM Trust’s analysis is that this pledge has been broken, and instead laws on pesticides have been weakened to allow the use of hazardous chemicals that can disrupt hormones.

  • UPDATE: The UK Government has now restored this ban on hormone disrupting pesticides, claiming the deletion was a ‘drafting error’ – see our new blog for details.

Meanwhile in a separate law on other hazardous chemicals the Government are planning to shut out representatives of public health, environment and consumers from the decision-making process.

CHEM Trust, represented by law firm Leigh Day, has now sent a Pre-Action Protocol letter to Environment Minister Michael Gove setting out its concerns. The pre-action letter asks for more information from the Government before deciding whether to start judicial review proceedings.
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This week CHEM Trust’s Head of Science, Dr Ninja Reineke, is speaking on a panel at the Helsinki Chemical Forum on the subject of regulating groups of hazardous chemicals.

Below she explains why this approach is needed to better protect wildlife and humans from hazardous chemicals.

Business as usual is not an option

The history of chemical regulation is full of examples of ‘too little, too late‘.

The UN’s Global Chemical Outlook II report highlighted that the goal to minimise adverse impacts on human health and the environment from chemicals by 2020 will not be reached.

The very strong conclusion is: “business as usual is therefore not an option.” This calls for faster and more determined action and an acceleration of measures to control the impacts from harmful chemicals. Currently it can easily take over a decade from the first evidence of harm to restricting problematic uses.

The task is not small. In Europe alone, more than 22,000 chemicals produced and imported (over 1 tonne per year) are registered for use. REACH has put in place some new restrictions and ended the use of some substances of very high concern, but progress remains slow. One of the reasons for this is that today’s ‘business as usual’ means a substance-by-substance approach in risk management.

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European elections will be taking place from 23rd – 26th May 2019, with more than 400 million people eligible to vote across 28 Member States. Voters will elect over 700 Members of the European Parliament (MEPs), who have the power to amend proposed EU laws, contribute to EU policy making and will cross-examine and vote on a new European Commission later this year.

Environmental policy will undoubtedly play a key role in the next Parliament, and a recent YouGov poll in eleven EU Member States found that the environment was important for around 80% of voters in each country. A range of civil society groups have published ‘manifestos’ listing their priorities for the EU and for these elections, and hazardous chemicals are a common theme in many of them. [continue reading…]

On Tuesday this week CHEM Trust gave oral evidence to the UK House of Commons Environmental Audit Committee (EAC) inquiry into “Toxic chemicals in everyday life”.

We very much welcome this inquiry, as the main chemical exposures for humans and wildlife come from emissions from everyday products, such as furniture and food packaging. Some of these exposures come from chemicals that are still being used, others come from chemicals which have been banned but are still present in products in our homes, or from persistent pollution of the environment.

Prof Sumpter giving evidence (via Parliament.tv)

Our overarching message to the inquiry – as spelled out in our written submission – is that there needs to be faster, more protective and more comprehensive regulation of chemicals at UK, EU and at International levels in order to protect ourselves, wildlife and future generations from hazardous chemicals.

This message was also echoed in the inquiry’s first evidence session which heard from four UK Ecotoxicologists who sit on the UK Government’s Hazardous Substances Advisory Committee and advise Government on substances which have the potential to harm human health and the environment.

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CHEM Trust has highlighted for nearly five years, that the current EU laws regulating the chemicals used in food contact materials (FCM) such as food packaging, cutlery, and factory equipment do not properly protect public health. Many materials, such as paper, card, inks and linings are not controlled by harmonised EU-level laws, and where harmonised laws exist, like e.g. for plastic materials, the system is weak and outdated.

The European Commission has finally begun to review these laws, and their consultants are currently running a public consultation. CHEM Trust has been working with other civil society groups to establish some key principles for an effective new system for regulating the materials that are in contact with the food we eat every day. [continue reading…]

The developing brain is exposed to a cocktail of chemicals

Throughout our life we are exposed to hundreds of chemicals from multiple sources including from food, consumer products, household dust and drinking water. Current safety assessments mainly focus on single substances. However, combined exposure to many chemicals can lead to unacceptable effects, even if single substances in the mixture are below their individual safety levels.

In 2012 the European Commission’s Communication on `The combination effects – Chemical mixtures` identified several gaps and areas for action. Since then research has increasingly found reason for concern, but this has had little impact on regulatory action.

Last week, on 26th of March “The Chemical Cocktail Challenge” workshop was held in Brussels to discuss recent research from two EU projects EDC-MixRisk and EuroMix, looking at exposure to mixtures of endocrine (hormone) disrupting chemicals (EDC).

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We are all exposed to endocrine disrupting chemicals (EDCs) from everyday sources, including food contact materials, cosmetics and toys, and these are linked to a range of health concerns.  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.

In November 2018 the European Commission announced a regulatory fitness check of EU laws relating to EDCs, which CHEM Trust said fell far short of what is needed to urgently reduce human and wildlife exposure to EDCs.

Our concerns were echoed in the recent Environment Council debate on 5th of March, where several countries called for more decisive regulatory action to reduce and minimise exposure to endocrine disrupters.

This month, two new reports illustrate scientists’ concerns about EDCs and the way future European laws need to be improved and implemented.

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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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