≡ Menu

Is the cocktail effect only a hypothesis?

Research has highlighted the continuous low level exposure of wildlife and humans to a combination of many different chemicals from various sources [i],[ii]. The potential for ‘cocktail’ or mixture effects has convincingly been demonstrated in many laboratory studies which have clearly shown combination or additive effects of chemicals, including hormone disrupters [iii], [iv], [v]. The fact that significant effects can occur even when organisms are exposed at levels below their individual effect concentrations has triggered the development of approaches for cumulative risk assessment [vi], [vii].

Given that exposure to multiple chemicals starts in the womb [viii],[ix],[x] and small children are exposed to a multitude of EDCs the issue of combined effects has caused concerns among policy makers. A 2009 report by the Danish Ministry of the Environment found that 2 year-olds may be at risk through exposures to EDCs in their daily environment [xi]. EU environment ministers have repeatedly called for this issue to be addressed [xii] and the EU’s 7th Environmental Action Programme aims to ensure that “the combination effects of chemicals and safety concerns related to endocrine disruptors are effectively addressed in all relevant Union legislation, and risks for the environment and health, in particular in relation to children, associated with the use of hazardous substances, including chemicals in products, are assessed and minimised.” [xiii]

This page is part of CHEM Trust’s Hormone Disrupting Chemicals FAQ – Full list of questions here.

The next question is “How does CHEM Trust engage in the current EU debate on EDCs?“.


[i]. European Environment Agency (EEA): Hazardous substances in Europe’s fresh and marine waters, EEA technical Report No 8/2011, ISSN 1725-2237

[ii]. See e.g. EU Biomonitoring project DEMOCOPHES: http://www.eu-hbm.info/democophes

[iii]. EEA Technical report 02/2012: The impacts of endocrine disrupters on wildlife, people, and their environments, The Weybridge +15 (1996-2011) report, 2012, ISSN 1725-2237

[iv]. Carvalho et al., Mixtures of chemical pollutants at European legislation safety concentrations: how safe are they?, ToxicolSci, e-pub, June 2014 http://orbit.dtu.dk/ws/files/100292016/Toxicol._Sci._2014_Carvalho_218_33.pdf

[v]. Kortenkamp et al: State of the Art report on Mixture Toxicity, 2009, http://ec.europa.eu/environment/chemicals/effects/pdf/report_mixture_toxicity.pdf

[vi]. NAS Final report: Phthalates and cumulative risk assessment, December 2008 http://cfpub.epa.gov/ncea/cfm/recordisplay.cfm?deid=202508

[vii]. http://www.efsa.europa.eu/en/efsajournal/pub/3313.htm

[viii]. WWF/Greenpeace report “A present for life”, 2005 http://awsassets.panda.org/downloads/presentforlife.pdf

[ix]. O.Leino, H. Kivirante, A.K. Karjalainen, C. Kronberg-Kippila, H. Sinkko, E.H. Larsen, S. Virtanen, J.T. Tuomisto: Pollutant concentrations in placenta. Food and Chemical Toxicology 54 (2013), 59-69.

[x]. M. Casas, C. Chevrier, E. Den Hond, M. Fernandez, F. Pierik, C. Philippat, R. Slama, G. Toft, S. Vandentorren, M. Wilhelm, M. Vrijheid: Exposure to brominated flame retardants, perfluorinated compounds, phthalates and phenols in European birth cohorts: ENRICO evaluation, first human biomonitoring results, and recommendations, International Journal of Hygiene and Environmental Health 216 (2013) 230-242.

[xi]. Combined effects on two year old children

[xii]. Council conclusions on combination effects of chemicals, 2009 http://www.consilium.europa.eu/uedocs/cms_data/docs/pressdata/en/envir/112043.pdf