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Identifying EDCs: EU Government experts adopt flawed criteria

After years of delays, debates and continued exposure of people and wildlife to chemicals with hormone disrupting properties (EDCs), experts from EU governments voted this morning to support the latest Commission proposal defining criteria for identifying endocrine disrupters.

In CHEM Trust’s view the criteria will not properly protect public health and the environment, as they require too much evidence before action is taken. The more evidence that is required, the longer people and wildlife will continue to be exposed to chemicals of concern.

These criteria will be used in EU pesticides law, are expected to be adopted for application in the EU biocides law and are likely to  have implications for other EU laws. The Commission has already started work on detailed guidance on how these criteria will be applied.

The legal requirement on the European Commission to define criteria to identify EDCs was specified in EU pesticide and biocides legislation, with both setting deadlines of December 2013. Draft criteria were put forward in June 2013, but then a major industry-led lobbying campaign led to a halt in the process. The Commission were found guilty of breaking EU law by the European Court of Justice for failing to define the criteria by the legal deadline.

After years of delay the European Commission had published the first EDC criteria proposal in June 2016 and CHEM Trust has closely followed the process (see  here, here and here) during several rounds of the Commission`s negotiation with Member States.

Our two main concerns regarding the criteria still remain valid:

  1. The text requires too high a burden of evidence before a chemical can be identified as an EDC. Without this identification, there will not be regulatory measures, and exposure will continue.
  2. The text includes a significant loophole – an exemption from identification for certain pesticides that are designed to be endocrine disrupting. This undermines the objective of the legislation of not allowing the use of endocrine disrupting pesticides, unless a very specific derogation is granted.

Ninja Reineke, CHEM Trust Senior Policy Adviser said:

This decision will have crucial implications for the future health of our children and the wider environment.  The criteria in their current form require too much evidence, and  will lead to long delays in the identification of problematic pesticides, so our exposure will continue.

We are very concerned that these criteria will mean that pesticides with evidence of ED properties will still be permitted for use. This will not ensure a high level of protection of human health and the environment.

The NGO coalition EDCFree, which CHEM Trust is a member of, has also sent out a press release criticising the criteria.

The Commission’s press release also states that they are starting to work on a new strategy on EDCs, including looking at food packaging, an area where CHEM Trust and the European Parliament have already highlighted the lack of adequate regulation:

The adopted criteria will provide a stepping stone for further actions to protect health and the environment by enabling the Commission to start working on a new strategy to minimise exposure of EU citizens to endocrine disruptors, beyond pesticides and biocides. The strategy will aim to cover for example toys, cosmetics and food packaging.

Next steps

The criteria will still need to be voted on by the European Parliament later on in 2017, who could still veto the proposal.

In the meantime, work has already begun on a detailed guidance document on how to apply these rules, involving representatives of the European Chemical Agency (ECHA), European Food Safety Authority and the Commission’s Joint Research Centre. CHEM Trust will be providing input as a member of ECHA’s Endocrine Disruption expert group.

We are also expecting the European Commission to weaken the EU’s pesticides regulation to make it easier for EDC chemicals to be used. This change was demanded by the pesticides industry ahead of today’s vote; we explained in 2016 why this would reduce public and environmental protection.

  • Scientists from the Endocrine Society have also criticised these proposed criteria in a letter to the European Commission, stating that they “will fail to identify EDCs that are currently causing human harm and will not secure a high level of health and environmental protection
  • This blog has been covered by Food Packaging Forum.


  • Jj Lough July 4, 2017, 3:47 pm

    How can we find out how each member state voted?

    • Michael Warhurst July 4, 2017, 3:52 pm

      Unfortunately EU Governments don’t tend to publish that sort of information, but one media report has stated that 21 member countries voted in favour of the criteria; the Czech Republic, Denmark and Sweden voted against the text. Latvia, Hungary, Poland and the U.K. abstained.