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EU criteria for Endocrine Disrupting Chemicals: Responsibility moving from DG Environment to DG Health & Consumer Affairs

Chemical Watch is reporting that the European Commission is re-organising responsibility for  the setting of criteria for endocrine disrupting chemicals (EDCs), moving it from the Environment Directorate General (DG) to DG Health and Consumer Affairs (or ‘Sanco’), though DG Environment will remain in charge of overall EDC policy. In addition, responsibility for biocides and pesticides policies is transferring to DG Sanco:

The European Commission’s directorate general for health (DG Sanco) will lead development of criteria to identify endocrine disrupting chemicals (EDCs), according to Bjørn Hansen, head of the chemicals unit at DG Environment, which has been in charge of the work until now. The switch is part of the changes planned for the new Commission, which is scheduled to start its mandate on 1 November (CW 10 September 2014).

The EDC criteria feature in the EU’s biocidal products (BPR) and pesticides Regulations (PPPR), and with DG Sanco in charge of the two policy areas starting next year, it will have “a higher stake” in proposing the new criteria, says Mr Hansen. His unit has been working with DG Sanco over the past few months on the issue (CW 16 June 2014), and he expects the two DGs will launch a public consultation on the criteria, before the end of the year.

DG Environment will still be in charge of the European Commission’s overall strategy on EDCs, as well as overseeing rules for test methods needed to detect chemicals with endocrine-disrupting properties, according to Mr Hansen.

At CHEM Trust we are concerned about these changes, and our Policy Director Gwynne Lyons is quoted in the article:

Meanwhile, a number of NGOs voiced concerns about DG Sanco taking over biocides and leading development of the EDC criteria. Gwynne Lyons of ChemTrust said: “Moving biocides from DG Environment to Health makes a mockery of the good work done in DG Environment, which had solicited democratic input from member states, all stakeholders and scientists to come up with draft criteria for EDCs back in June 2013. This restructuring and reassignment of the file is short-term politics to appease industry and it bodes ill for the environment and human health.”

She notes that DG Environment had been pursuing a hazard-based approach, but it seems that “powerful forces” have resulted in a more risk-based approach emerging, she says, pointing the finger at industry and the trade negotiations currently underway with the US. Ms Lyons also points out there is a legal issue, as the criteria are written in the BPR and PPPR. The NGO is keen to see the interim criteria implemented – these would see category 2 reprotoxins and carcinogens, and substances toxic to endocrine glands, classified as EDCs. This would catch a lot of EDCs so it is important they are imposed, she says. DG Sanco declined to comment on the changes.

We will be keeping a close eye on the European Commission’s work on endocrine disrupters – in DG Sanco, DG Environment and beyond.