EDCs are viewed as contributing factors to endocrine-related disorders and diseases, such as hormonal cancers, impaired fertility and impacts on metabolism [i]. Thus, benefits for human health will result from reducing exposure to EDCs.
A recent economic impact study (Health costs in the European Union. How much is related to EDCs?) commissioned by HEAL conservatively estimates that health care and related cost savings in the EU could be as high as €31 billion annually if use of endocrine disrupting chemicals were curtailed [ii]. This study assumes only a very conservative 5% contribution of EDCs to the origin of relevant diseases.
In November 2014, a study for the Nordic Council found that just the damage to male reproductive health alone from exposure to EDCs is likely to cost many millions of euros every year in the EU [iii], [iv].
Benefits for ecosystems and wildlife will result from reducing environmental contamination, which is still a threat to the health of EU freshwater systems [v]. Achieving these benefits may require increased costs for water treatment unless the use of hazardous chemicals is reduced.
There are benefits for companies, too. Making better and safer products without EDCs is a crucial step on the path towards a sustainable chemical industry. Many businesses and users of chemicals have already started trying to replace known EDCs in their supply chain. They strive to use better alternatives following regulatory and consumer pressure.
Benefits for companies that move away from EDCs include market advantage because consumers are demanding products free of EDCs [vi]. It also reduces reputational and liability risks for companies, as laid out in a 2012 report from some of the world’s leading insurance companies who have addressed EDCs in their emerging risk initiative [vii].
Finding safer alternatives is certainly a challenge but there are already tools available which can help to apply principles of Green Chemistry in the making of new chemicals [viii],[ix],[x].
Stricter laws create incentives for innovation and the development of alternatives, as happened in the case of certain phthalates, see e.g. the study “In the driver’s seat” from the Center for International Environmental Law (CIEL) [xi]. Regulating EDCs in a more coherent way also introduces a level playing field for all companies and avoids rewarding those companies still using toxic chemicals.
This page is part of CHEM Trust’s Hormone Disrupting Chemicals FAQ – Full list of questions here.
The next question is “What should future risk management for EDCs in the EU look like?“.
[i]. UNEP and WHO: “State of the Science of Endocrine Disruptors 2012” http://www.who.int/ceh/publications/endocrine/en/index.html
[v]. Egina Malaj, Peter C. von der Ohe, Matthias Grote, Ralph Kühne, Cédric P. Mondy, Philippe Usseglio-Polatera, Werner Brack, and Ralf B. Schäfer: Organic chemicals jeopardize the health of freshwater ecosystems on the continental scale, PNAS 2014 ; published ahead of print June 16, 2014
[ix]. Schug et al., Green Chemistry, Designing endocrine disruption out of the next generation of chemicals, 2012. DOI: 10.1039/c2gc35055f
[x]. SUBSPORT Substitution support portal: Moving towards safer alternatives http://www.subsport.eu/