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Fracking – CHEM Trust’s position

Fracking remains in the news – in the United Kingdom and also around the world.

Much has been written about the carbon balance of fracking, for example the risks of fugitive emissions of methane, and the simple reality that taking more fossil fuels out of the ground will simply increase the carbon dioxide in the atmosphere.

However, the potential pollution caused by fracking shouldn’t be forgotten – and it’s worth pointing out that CHEM Trust already has a position paper on fracking, (from January 2013) which concludes:

CHEM Trust has severe concerns about fracking in the UK, particularly because of its potential for intractable pollution of water resources. CHEM Trust’s focus is on the pollution aspects of the technology, as its mission is to protect humans and wildlife from harmful chemicals. Therefore, the potential long term environmental contamination and possible health effects of fracking are the focus of this briefing.

We conclude that widespread fracking in the UK would pose a considerable threat, particularly to water resources.

One of our Directors, Gwynne Lyons, also wrote a blog on fracking on the Green Alliance web site in October 2013, and called for:

  1. A moratorium on fracking in the UK, until there has been full public disclosure of all the chemicals used and the companies involved have provided adequate data on their hazard profiles, and undertaken a full assessment of all the potential health and environmental effects. Unfortunately, since full disclosure isn’t required in the US, there is a lack of information about the full range of dangerous chemicals which may be used.
  2. No fracking near potable groundwater sources, in National Parks, or on or near environmentally sensitive areas or sites of special scientific interest (SSSIs).
  3. Extensive air, land and water monitoring in the vicinity prior to and during operation, including vigilance for emerging health effects in residents, livestock and wildlife.
  4. Detailed and ongoing inspection of operations by experts in geology and ground water protection to ensure proper disposal of all chemicals, including contaminated water, muds and other wastes.
  5. Companies undertaking fracking should have to deposit bonds sufficient to cover any future compensation claims. Measures to enforce the polluter pays principle are necessary to ensure that the proper checks and balances are in place.

CHEM Trust – along >15 other environment groups – have welcomed the European Chemical Agency’s video which encourages people to find out about the chemicals in products they buy.

The video has been criticised by UK Chemical Business Association, but in our view it is a creative way of engaging people in this important issue.

In our joint letter to the European Chemical Agency we also suggest that the agency should provide consumers with a model letter, to help them find out about chemicals in products. Similar letters are already available from the UBA in Germany, and from HEAL.

The Strategic Approach to International Chemicals Management (SAICM) is a policy framework to promote chemical safety around the world. SAICM has as its overall objective the achievement of the sound management of chemicals throughout their life cycle so that, by 2020, chemicals are produced and used in ways that minimize significant adverse impacts on human health and the environment.

CHEM Trust is very supportive of SAICM’s work, and we have just submitted our views into a discussion about environmental pollution from pharmaceutical products (medicines).

Pharmaceutical chemicals are widely used globally for therapeutic purposes, including the treatment of disease in humans, as well as in domesticated companion animals and in livestock used for food production. Residues from pharmaceuticals can persist in the environment and residues can now be found in drinking water. They are also found in fish and other organisms in the wild, where they may accumulate.

More than 630 different pharmaceutical chemicals have been found to occur in the natural environment; some may have endocrine disrupting activity or other toxic effects.

In CHEM Trust’s view, pharmaceutical pollutants should be accepted as a global emerging issue under SAICM, so as to foster international exchange on the best ways to tackle this growing problem.

The brominated flame retardant (BFR) Hexabromocyclododecane (HBCDD) has been used for decades and has turned out to be persistent, bioaccumulative and toxic (PBT). It has been detected in humans, the environment and wildlife worldwide, including in remote areas. It has been on the REACH candidate list for 6 years and governments around the world have listed it for global phase-out under the Stockholm Convention on persistent organic pollutants.

HBCDD will be banned for use in Europe as from 21.08.2015 unless an ‘authorisation’ is granted for a specific use. Earlier this year, an industry consortium of manufacturers of expanded polystyrene applied for authorisation to the EU Chemicals Agency (ECHA) to  obtain permission for the continued use of HBCDD as a flame retardant in insulation building material in the EU.

CHEM Trust has submitted comments to the public consultation of the EU Chemicals Agency (ECHA) arguing that this application for authorisation should be denied. REACH makes it clear that releases of HBCDD need to be avoided unless these result from a use which is crucial for society.  In CHEM Trust’s view the applicant has not made a convincing case that the socio-economic benefits would outweigh the risks, and that no safer alternatives are available.

Other organisation’s responses to this consultation are here, and Chemical Watch has covered the story, including CHEM Trust’s comments.

The European Union (EU) and US are currently negotiating a new trade deal – the  Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership,  or TTIP for short. CHEM Trust – and many others – are worried that this deal could weaken controls on chemicals, particularly within Europe.

We’ve got together with over 100 NGOs from Europe and the US to send a letter to the US Trade Representative Michael Froman and EU Trade Commissioner Karel de Gucht, asking for them to exclude the chemical sector from the TTIP negotiations.

In CHEM Trust’s view proposals for enhanced regulatory cooperation would threaten to chill or even freeze forward-looking chemical regulations and their implementation. The presence of toxic chemicals in our food, our homes, our workplaces, and our bodies is a threat to present and future generations, with staggering costs for society and individuals. Chemical industry-driven proposals for TTIP would neither reduce these costs nor increase the efficiency or effectiveness of regulators on either side of the Atlantic.

For more information on chemicals & TTIP, see our joint briefing with HEAL.

Coverage in the Nigerian Guardian of 10th July 2014

SCIENTISTS have raised fresh alert over the proliferation of food packaging that contains hazardous chemicals associated with increasing cases of cancer, infertility and birth defects.

The scientists in one of two independent but separate studies suggest that the chemical, Bisphenol-A (BPA), changes how genes function in the mammary glands of rats exposed in their mother’s womb, leaving them more vulnerable to breast cancer later in life.”

Elizabeth Salter Green, of the campaign group CHEM Trust, said the EU was trying to tighten up the regulation of gender-bending chemicals but the UK was in favour of the least stringent measures.

She added: “This report bears testimony to the on-going failure of regulatory agencies to reduce exposure to hormone disrupting chemicals, which are implicated in the increased rates of hormone-related cancers and other diseases.

“Thankfully, the EU is now trying to come to agreement on how to identify such hormone disrupting chemicals, so that they can be effectively regulated, but unfortunately the UK is trying to thwart this process in a bid to limit the number of chemicals that will fall under the regulatory axe.

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New research published this week has revealed that hazardous chemicals – including endocrine disrupting chemicals – are used in packaging around food (food contact packaging).

In the study – which has been reported by the Daily Mail and the Daily Express - the authors identified 175 potentially hazardous substances legally used in the production of food contact materials in Europe and the U.S. They also point out deficiencies in the regulation of many of the chemicals used in food contact packaging in the European Union (EU).

CHEM Trust considers that it is important that regulations are strengthened as soon as possible, to ensure that the public is protected from exposure to such chemicals.

We therefore sent a letter this morning (9th July 2014) to EU Health Commissioner Tonio Borg, making two key points:

1) There is a gap in EU regulation of chemicals in food contact packaging, if this packaging is not plastic – for example, if it is paper, board, rubber or cork.

  • EU regulations on chemicals in food contact packaging do not contain an EU-wide system for controlling chemical use in non-plastic packaging.

2) This research demonstrates that a substantial number of chemicals with hazardous properties are used in food contact materials

  • Even where there is EU-level regulation of chemicals in food contact packaging – e.g. for food contact plastics – this regulation is not stringent enough to properly protect human health. This is particularly the case for endocrine disrupting chemicals, where there continues to be major delays in the Commission’s work on this important issue.

We look forward to hearing more from the Commissioner and his team.

Update: Our letter was covered in Chemical Watch on 10th July.

“Pregnant women who live near fields sprayed with pesticides can run more than three times the risk of having a child with autism, a study has found.

It is feared that the crop chemicals stunt the development of the unborn child’s brain, setting it up for problems in years to come.”

Full article in the Daily Mail:

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/health/article-2665464/Crop-sprays-raise-risk-autism-unborn-children.html – Daily Mail, 23.6.14, Fiona Macrae

Elizabeth Salter Green, the director of campaign group CHEM Trust, said: ‘This research is of great concern when one considers the reliance of UK agriculture on pesticides and what appears to be a similarly large increase in autism here as in the US.’

“Chemicals in everyday products including toothpaste, soap and sunscreen could be damaging men’s fertility, researchers warn.

For the first time, a study has directly linked common household chemicals with damage to human sperm.

The scientists said that the ‘ubiquitous’ chemicals may be contributing to widespread fertility problems in the Western world.”

Full article:

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2625963/Chemicals-toothpaste-soap-childrens-plastic-toys-cause-male-infertility.html – Daily Mail, 12.5.2014, Fiona Macrae

Elizabeth Salter Green, director of chemical watchdog CHEM Trust, called for tougher regulations on these chemicals, adding: ‘The great worry is the ability of these chemicals to undermine fertilisation occurs at levels to which most men are regularly exposed.’

CHEM Trust comments on EFSA BPA Draft Opinion

Full Article

http://chemicalwatch.com/19418/efsa-discusses-bpa-comments-with-ngos-and-industry – Chemical Watch, 24.4.2014, Emma Davies

…”To have a summary that doesn’t encapsulate any of the controversy surrounding BPA is not a good overview of the state of play at this point in time,” Ms Lyons told Chemical Watch. She recommends that the opinion should include a table to show the lowest dose levels reported to cause effects in animals, to allow comparisons with current exposures.

“Efsa was very interested, it seemed to be very keen to listen and quickly took on board the need for the summary to better show the uncertainties and perhaps take up the issue of whether or not there may be a margin of safety for some effects,” said Ms Lyons. “It accepts that there are uncertainties.”