ESE calls for action to tackle the continuous threat of endocrine-disrupting chemicals

ESE has, over the past 18 months, expanded its activities in the area of policy and advocacy. One of our key focus areas is the debate at the EU level around endocrine disruptors – which is one of the main health debates currently taking place in Brussels.

In addition to responding to several consultations, ESE wrote a statement responding to the European Commission communication on this topic last November organised an event (also last November) with the Endocrine Society and actively supported a European Parliament resolution that urges the European Commission to renew the 1999 strategy on endocrine disruptors.

In coordination with partner organisations and the members of the ESE EDC Working Group, ESE has planned an action directed towards the Environmental Ministers across Europe to brief them on the importance of, and the issues surrounding EDCs, and ask them to support this at EU level. We are urging other organisations to reach out to the environmental ministries in the EU Member States by means of the letter below. 

UPDATE: ESE welcomes the Council of the European Union Conclusions - in particular their urgent call to the European Commission to adopt “without further delay” an EU strategy for a non-toxic environment - adopted on Wednesday 26 June 2019.

Letter to Environmental Ministries

In the context of the forthcoming European environment council meeting on 26 June 2019, we would like to draw your attention to the threat endocrine Disrupting Chemicals (EDCs) continue to pose for the general health and wellbeing of the European population, our environment, and the rest of the world.

EDCs are present in food, food contact materials, cosmetics, consumer goods (including furnishings, cleaning products), toys, as well as drinking water. Consequently, the EU population is widely exposed to known and suspected EDCs

While part of the impact on human and animal health remains unknown, increasing evidence associates EDCs with numerous, sometimes lethal, illnesses. An EU wide study has associated EDCs with development disorders, IQ loss, autism, attention hyperactivity disorder, obesity, testicular cancer and male infertility. It has been estimated that the financial impact of EDCs is 157 billion euros a year, or 1.23 percent of the EU Gross Domestic Product, due to the described illnesses and loss of productivity .

We are convinced that several relatively easy to implement EU and national legislative and policy measures can reduce the impact of EDCs on our population:

  • Apply the “precautionary principle” for all (potential) EDCs until further research can determine the exact effects of small or large concentrations of EDCs on human and animal health
  • A common definition for EDCs that will be applied horizontally in all relevant EU law. Currently, the practical definitions of EDC are, for example, not the same in the EU biocide compared to the EU pesticide regulation. Once a compound is identified as an EDC under EU law, it should not be able to still find its way to the EU market through a legislative ‘loophole’
  • Sector-specific regulations should explicitly require data that would allow for the identification of known, presumed and suspected EDCs used or to be used in any sector. The use of EDC tests covering all EDC modalities and endpoints, should be made compulsory in all application dossiers submitted by the industry. Increased means should be allocated for the control of substance application dossiers.
  • Speed up the current testing methods or the replacement of EDCs with safer alternatives. With regards to the latter, there is only the promise of additional research in this area while many alternatives are known already and could start to replace EDCs as of now in a broad variety of products on the EU market

These and many other measures should be integrated into a new comprehensive EU strategy with concrete objectives and timelines to effectively tackle the adverse effects of EDCs. The current strategy is from 1999 and is clearly outdated considering the scientific progress achieved in this field during the last two decades, the importance the issue has been given within society and the current prominent place of EDCs on the EU health agenda.

Despite repeated calls by the consumer groups, scientific organisations and numerous NGOs, the European Commission has not taken clear enough steps towards such a strategy. Their latest official communication from 7 November 2018 “Towards a comprehensive European Union framework on endocrine disruptors” , although it recognizes the need of minimizing overall exposure of human and the environment to EDCs, does not reflect the scale of the problem and failed to address several key issues as outlined in a statement by the European Society of Endocrinology .

Despite a recent resolution, passed with an overwhelming majority, by the European Parliament urging the European Commission to “swiftly take all necessary actions to ensure a high level of protection of human health and the environment against EDCs”, the European Commission continues to procrastinate the implementation of concrete measures that could help tackling EDCs. The latest example is the announcement of the Commission to push back the so called “REFIT evaluation”, to assess if the regulations for pesticides meet the needs of citizens, businesses and public”, until the end of 2019.

In this context, ESE calls upon the Council to adopt Council Conclusions during its meeting on 26 June 2019 that, in line with the European Parliament resolution of 18 April this year, urge the European Commission to renew the 1999 EDC strategy and include a comprehensive package of measures that reflect the health and economic impact EDCs have on the European society.

We would like to thank you in advance for your support.