Endocrine disrupting chemicals (EDCs) are chemicals that can disrupt the functioning of the endocrine (or hormonal) systems of humans or wildlife. There are EU laws in place that can restrict their use – but they will only work if there is agreement on how to decide if a chemical is an EDC.
The issue of criteria to identify EDCs is therefore vital, as it affects which chemicals will be regulated – for example the pesticides and biocides regulatory system can ban the use of EDCs. The system for regulating industrial chemicals (REACH) can subject EDCs to authorisation, where companies must apply to continue to use them, otherwise they are off the market.
The EU Commission has just released a consultation on what the criteria should be. Here’s the CHEM Trust response:
“We welcome the Commission’s consultation on the urgent and important issue of how to identify endocrine disrupting chemicals.
It’s particularly good news that this consultation is launching in the week that the Environment & Health Commissioners-nominate are having their hearings in the European Parliament. This should help ensure that endocrine disruption is viewed as priority for new Commission.
We will look at consultation closely and we hope that this consultation can help ensure that this important issue is addressed urgently”
Today (Monday 29th September) the European Parliament will start questioning the proposed new European Commissioners – the launch of the EDC criteria consultation should help ensure this is an important part of the discussion. However, this is only one of the environmental concerns about the new Commission, with the main EU-based environmental groups – the Green 10 – calling for major changes to ensure Europe makes continued progress on sustainable development.
Of course, dealing with EDCs isn’t just an issue for governments. Responsible companies should already be working to avoid chemicals with endocrine disrupting properties, and there is a lot of information available on what chemicals should be avoided. The most important tool, the International Chemical Secretariat’s SIN List will be updated next week.
Unfortunately much of the effort from the chemical industry has been focussed on delaying action on EDCs. For example, industry pressure led to the European Commission doing an impact assessment on setting EDC criteria, delaying action and moving the focus away from science & towards the policy’s effects on individual companies. If you want to know more about this industry campaign, the documentary Endocrination spells out what has been happening.
The success – so far – of the chemical industry policy to delay action on EDCs means that it’s important that the new Commission finalises these criteria and starts getting endocrine disrupting chemicals off the market. We and wildlife are being exposed to these hazardous chemicals – they need to be taken off the market.