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New EU Communication on endocrine disrupters: missing the action

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.

CHEM Trust view on the Commission Communication

On the positive side, the Commission’s strategic approach to endocrine disrupters is based on the precautionary principle and aims to:

  • minimise overall exposure of humans and the environment to endocrine disruptors, paying particular attention to exposures during important periods of development of an organism, such as foetal development and puberty;
  • accelerate the development of a thorough research basis for effective and forward-looking decision-making;
  • and promote an active dialogue allowing all stakeholders to be heard and to work together.

However, the Commission document falls short in providing detailed activities to better protect human health and the environment now and there are no specific measures for exposure reduction by a certain date. In particular the proposal to launch a Fitness Check to assess whether EU relevant legislation on endocrine disrupters delivers on the protection goals will lead to further delays instead of solving known inadequacies in the risk management of EDCs in the EU.

The Commission also makes no effort to address the combination effects of exposure to mixtures of EDCs from various sources. This is very disappointing given that EU Member States already asked the Commission in 2009 to “make recommendations as to how exposure to multiple endocrine disruptors should be further addressed within relevant existing Community legislation“.

Ninja Reineke, Head of Science, CHEM Trust said:

“The Commission seems to be mainly focussed on not doing anything which would upset the chemical industry. Instead of seizing the opportunity to start actions that would protect public health and the environment that they should have delivered years ago they decide to go for another round of analysis, impact assessments and research.

Europe needs more effective rules for EDCs in food packaging and consumer products, not more delay and never-ending consultations, while exposure continues”

One solution would be to move to more effective policy approaches such as acting on whole groups of related chemicals, rather than just allowing industry to move from one problem chemical to another, as highlighted in the CHEM Trust’s recent report Toxic Soup.

The EDC Free network, of which CHEM Trust is a member, published a position paper in May 2018 listing eight essential elements for a new European EDC Strategy. The EDC Free network’s reaction to today’s launch is here.