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The Environmental Audit Committee (EAC) of the UK House of Commons is currently doing an inquiry into the proposed Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) and its impacts on the environment and the developing world. Yesterday they published the evidence that had been submitted to this inquiry, including a submission from CHEM Trust.

The main points we made in our submission were:

  • Our strong belief that the inclusion of chemicals within TTIP will lower protection in the EU, and will further slow down efforts to protect human health and the environment from hazardous chemicals.
  • We are very concerned that the US government has a long history of lobbying against EU action on chemicals, and that TTIP could provide a method for them to institutionalise this.
  • The US approach to chemicals regulation is generally acknowledged to be out-dated and ineffective, while the European approach is being copied by other jurisdictions, for example China and South Korean.
  • Given the differences between the two regulatory approaches, and the inability of the US to strengthen its regulations, it seems most likely that any regulatory harmonisation would lead to reduced protection in the EU.
  • There are already a number of international processes which facilitate collaboration on chemicals, including OECD and three International Conventions – though the US is still not a party to these conventions.

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The European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) have today published the opinion of their CEF scientific panel [1] on the risks to public health related to the presence of bisphenol A (BPA) in foodstuffs. In this opinion they have cut their estimate of the safe exposure level (temporary Tolerable Daily Intake (t-TDI)) to 4 micro g/kg body weight per day, down from the 5 micro g/kg body weight per day that was calculated in the draft opinion at the start of 2014. This is more than 10x lower than the 50 micro g/kg body weight per day TDI established by EFSA in 2006/7, showing how new research on BPA is leading to reductions in the dose thought to be toxic.
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The EU’s REACH system for regulating chemicals was supposed to bring with it a significant improvement in protection of people and the environment from toxic chemicals. But is it delivering? The latest developments in the debate over alternatives to the phthalate DEHP, used in PVC products, suggest that there are some serious problems.
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We are now in the final week of the European Commission’s consultation on Endocrine Disrupting Chemicals (EDCs), and today CHEM Trust submitted our response to the consultation. [Update: consultation has now finished].

Here are some of the key points we make in our response:

  • We support the proposal to use three different categories to define endocrine disrupting chemicals – known endocrine disrupter, suspected endocrine disrupter, potential endocrine disrupter. This approach allows the best use of available scientific evidence, and is line with the system already in use for carcinogens, mutagens and reproductive toxins.
  • We oppose the proposal to have a system that sets an arbitrary and unscientific cut off based on claimed ‘potency’ levels. For more details see this answer about potency in our Endocrine Disrupting Chemicals FAQ.
  • We oppose any changes to existing laws, as we consider that they already give sufficient flexibility and exemptions.

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The EU and US are continuing in their attempts to negotiate a new “Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership” – or TTIP for short, including measures to increase regulatory harmonisation, to reduce tariffs and to create an ‘Investor State Dispute Mechanism’.

As we wrote back in July 2014[read more]

At the start of December I gave a short presentation at the health session of the EEB’s 40th Anniversary conference. It was based around three themes:

  • the need to ensure pollution is part of discussions on the environment (rather than just climate, resource efficiency and biodiversity)
  • the need to focus on increasing wellbeing in the jobs, growth & sustainability debate
  • the need to acknowledge the real complexities of science when making decisions on how to control chemical use

What do these themes mean for Europe in 2015?  [read more]

In memory of Theo Colborn

Theo Colborn was a visionary who worked tirelessly to protect the public from chemicals with hormone disrupting properties.

She desperately tried to alert the world to the problems associated with exposure of the unborn child to countless hormone disrupting chemicals in every day household products. Her brilliance was in piecing together the evidence to portray the big picture. By bringing key academics together from different branches of the scientific world, she was able to let these scientists themselves also grasp the big picture, so that they too could carry the message forward. [read more]

Are there safer alternatives to Bisphenol A in thermal paper?

The French government has proposed that there should be a ban on the use of hormone disrupting chemical Bisphenol A (BPA) in thermal paper (e.g. till receipts) – but industry is now arguing that the alternatives are less well understood.

Since the French Government’s proposal for an EU wide ban on BPA in thermal paper, which CHEM Trust has supported, further research has been published showing how the BPA in thermal paper receipts can migrate into our bloodstream if the conditions are right.
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New research has found that the children of women exposed to higher levels of certain phthalate chemicals when pregnant have lower IQ at seven years old. The research, published in the journal PLOS One, looked at the levels of phthalates (a commonly used group of chemicals) in the urine of 328 mothers late in their pregnancy, and then tested the IQ of their children when they were 7 years old.

The authors found that two of the phthalates, DnBP and DiBP, had significant associations with reduced IQ, and they conclude:  [read more]

There is increasing evidence that human and veterinary medicines are damaging wildlife, a new report launched today by the environmental charity CHEM Trust shows. The report Pharmaceuticals in the Environment: A growing threat to our tap water and wildlife” highlights that medicines [1] are polluting rivers and have harmed wild birds and fish. Other species too have been affected, and people are also worryingly exposed.

This report comes at a time of growing global concern about the environmental effects of pharmaceuticals. Later this month a United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) meeting [2] will decide whether ‘Pharmaceuticals in the Environment’ should be recommended to be designated an emerging global policy issue.  [read more]