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Leading health professionals agree that toxic chemicals threaten healthy reproduction and development

In recent weeks the International Federation of Gynaecology and Obstetrics has expressed their concerns about the impact of exposure to toxic chemicals on reproduction and development, while scientists from the Endocrine Society have re-affirmed their concerns about endocrine (or hormone) disrupting chemicals (EDCs). Meanwhile, the authors of an important WHO/UNEP report on EDCs have rebutted criticism, while we at CHEM Trust have summarised the current situation for their regulation in the EU.

International Federation of Gynaecology and Obstetrics

The International Federation of Gynaecology and Obstetrics (FIGO) is a professional organisation made up of national societies of obbaby-dadstetricians and gynaecologists from 125 countries around the world. This well-respected organisation has released an opinion highlighting the links between exposure to toxic environmental chemicals and their impacts on reproductive health.

Toxic environmental chemicals are used in many different applications and surround us in our daily lives, in plastics, added to furniture and electronics as flame retardants, and pesticides. EDCs are a particular problem as they disrupt the body’s delicate hormone system.

The FIGO opinion states that even small exposures to toxic chemicals during pregnancy can trigger adverse health consequences.”
On the health outcomes of exposure to toxic chemicals, FIGO states that:

[There are] documented links between prenatal exposure to environmental chemicals and adverse health outcomes span the life course and include impacts on fertility and pregnancy, neurodevelopment, and cancer. The global health and economic burden related to toxic environmental chemicals is in excess of millions of deaths and billions of dollars every year.

FIGO have also made a number of recommendations:

FIGO recommends that reproductive and other health professionals advocate for policies to prevent exposure to toxic environmental chemicals,

work to ensure a healthy food system for all,

make environmental health part of health care,

and champion environmental justice.”

Endocrine Society

On the same week as the FIGO opinion was released, a new scientific statement was released by the Endocrine Society. The Endocrine Society is the world’s oldest and largest organisation devoted to research on hormones.

The Endocrine Society statement includes a review of 1,300 studies on EDCs, which show more evidence than ever of the links between EDCs and health problems including: obesity and diabetes, female reproduction, male reproduction, hormone-sensitive cancers in females, prostate cancer, thyroid, and neurodevelopment and neuroendocrine systems.

The statement concludes that the publication of research over the past 5 years has led to a greater understanding of the how EDCs effect the body even in low-doses, and during development. The Endocrine Society hopes the findings will prove useful to researchers, physicians, and other healthcare providers in translating the science of endocrine disruption to improved public health.

Both FIGO and the Endocrine Society are pushing for greater action in phasing out EDCs, which is something CHEM Trust has been championing since our founding eight years ago.

Scientists publish rebuttal of criticism of the important WHO/UNEP report on EDCs

In another recent development, the scientists involved in the important WHO/UNEP report on EDCs have published a strong rebuttal to criticism of the WHO/UNEP report by ‘financial stakeholders”, stating:

We conclude that Lamb et al.’s attempt of deconstructing the UNEP/WHO (2013) report is not particularly erudite and that their critique is not intended to be convincing to the scientific community, but to confuse the scientific data.

Consequently, it promotes misinterpretation of the UNEP/WHO (2013) report by non-specialists, bureaucrats, politicians and other decision makers not intimately familiar with the topic of endocrine disruption and therefore susceptible to false generalizations of bias and subjectivity

CHEM Trust presentation on EDCs

Despite ever more scientific evidence being identified, policy action on EDCs has been extremely slow. CHEM Trust’s Executive Director Michael Warhurst emphasised this issue in a presentation at the CIR European Chemicals Policy and Risk Management conference in Barcelona on 24th September 2015.

The presentation, “Identification of, and action on, endocrine disrupting chemicals”, examines how EU regulation is addressing EDCs, including the role of industry lobbying in delaying action. It concludes:

  • REACH chemicals law is already able to address EDCs through restrictions and authorisation, though there is a need to get this moving faster
  • EU EDC criteria need to be agreed; based on the science and should be designed to protect human health & environment. There shouldn’t be artificial and arbitrary potency limits (see “Should a potency cut-off be included in the criteria for identification of EDCs? in our FAQ for background on the potency issue).
  • As the science develops, more chemicals will be identified as EDCs, with more impacts shown. This issue isn’t going away
  • The best approach for companies is to avoid the problem – not fight the inevitable.

Here’s a timeline, showing what an extraordinarily long time it is taking to get EU action on EDCs, in particular the attempt to agree criteria to identify EDCs, which should have been completed by December 2013: