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Brussels sets out strategy on hormone disrupting chemicals

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Brussels sets out strategy on hormone disrupting chemicals

Photo by Brian Robert Marshall

(BRUSSELS) - The EU Commission unveiled a long-awaited strategy on endocrine disrupting chemicals Wednesday, with the aim of protecting consumers against harmful chemicals which change our hormonal system.

Consumers encounter these harmful chemicals in many everyday products, such as cosmetics, toys or food packaging. The annual cost to European society caused by EDCs is estimated at EUR 163 billion.

The Commission among other things outlined plans to clarify a currently scattered set of rules governing EDCs in consumer products and to identify where gaps exist and need to be filled.

"'The new strategy shows our determination to address endocrine disruptors comprehensively and consistently in a broader scope of areas," said Health and Food Safety Commissioner Vytenis Andriukaitis: "I am pleased that we are building on the work that has already been done on the identification criteria of endocrine disruptors under the regulations on pesticides and biocides, based on the World Health Organisation definition.''

The EU executive says its strategic approach to endocrine disruptors will continue to be based firmly on science and on the application of the precautionary principle. It aims at:

  • minimising the overall exposure of European consumers to endocrine disruptors, paying particular attention to important life periods, such as pregnancy and puberty;
  • accelerating the development of a thorough research basis for effective and forward-looking decision-making in the context of Horizon Europe, building on the existing research and paying particular attention to areas where knowledge gaps exist;
  • promoting active dialogue allowing all stakeholders to be heard and to work together. In this context, the Commission will organise a Forum on endocrine disruptors on an annual basis and step up its support to the work of international organisations.

For the first time, the Commission says it will launch a comprehensive screening of the legislation applicable to endocrine disruptors through a 'Fitness Check' that will build on the data already collected and analysed. Without putting into question the general science-based EU approach to the management of chemicals, the Fitness Check will involve an assessment of the current legislation on whether it delivers on the objectives of protecting human health and the environment. The Fitness Check will also include a public consultation.

The Communication also outlines initiatives currently considered by the Commission to ensure that the implementation of existing policies on endocrine disruptors reaches its full potential. This includes the identification of endocrine disruptors, improving communication throughout supply chains by using Safety Data Sheets as established under REACH, and taking forward the scientific assessment of endocrine disruptors with further regulatory action.

The strategy was welcomed by European Consumer Organisation BEUC as "a real chance to tackle the problem head-on". Monique Goyens, Director General of BEUC, said: "EU action on endocrine disruptors is overdue. Hormone disturbing chemicals pose a serious threat to the health of current and future generations and too much time has been wasted bickering about definitions and testing methods."

Commission Communication on Endocrine Disruptors - 
background guide

Towards a comprehensive European Union framework on endocrine disruptors - Commission Communication

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