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On 10th of June the full European Parliament will vote on its recommendations to the European Commission regarding the negotiations for the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP). In the lead up to this vote, several of the Parliament’s committees are discussing the key issues at stake. CHEM Trust has today joined with over 25 organisations in sending a letter to Bernd Lange MEP, who chairs the Parliament’s International Trade Committee, asking for the committee to support exclusion of chemicals from TTIP.

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One of the main objectives of the EU’s REACH chemical regulation system is to provide a high level of protection for people and the environment. A key part of this system is the authorisation process, which incentivises companies that are using the most problematic chemicals to move to safer alternatives. The European Commission have just been consulting on two ways in which this system can be ‘simplified’, and CHEM Trust is concerned about the potential impacts of aspects of this simplification.

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In the first study of its kind, scientists have shown that climate change could amplify the negative effects of pollution from endocrine disrupting chemicals (EDCs) on aquatic wildlife. Climate change is seen globally as a major environmental risk, and when combined with chemical pollution and habitat loss, it has the potential to have a severe impact on wildlife populations.

zebrafish

Zebrafish (Danio rerio)

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The sex of painted turtles (Chrysemys picta), native to fresh waters of North America, is normally determined by the temperature the eggs are exposed to during development, but new research shows the commonly used hormone disrupting chemical bisphenol A (BPA) can disrupt this process. BPA, which is present in a number of household products including food can linings and till receipts, was found to disrupt male turtle development at levels found in polluted environments.

 Scientists found that BPA can alter a turtle’s reproductive system and disrupts sexual differentiation. Scientists are concerned findings could indicate harmful effects on the environment and to human health. Credit: Roger Meissen, Bond Life Sciences Center

Scientists found that BPA can alter a turtle’s reproductive system and disrupts sexual differentiation. Scientists are concerned findings could indicate harmful effects on the environment and to human health. Credit: Roger Meissen, Bond Life Sciences Centre

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The debate on the ‘Circular Economy’ is hotting up, as the Juncker Commission tries to work out what changes it is going to make to the existing proposal to make it ‘more ambitious’. CHEM Trust have already pointed out the importance of chemical regulation – in particular REACH – in cleaning up the circular economy. We’ve now joined with European Environmental Bureau (EEB), Friends of the Earth Europe and Zerowaste Europe, to produce a short position paper on the issue, entitled “The Circular Economy and REACH: An Essential Partnership“.

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On Friday 17th April we finally got a response to our letter to the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) on why their press release & public briefing on 21st January had stated that there was ‘no health concern’ from the hormone disrupting chemical Bisphenol A (BPA), when their expert panel had actually stated that there was a ‘low health concern’. The letter from EFSA’s Executive Director, Bernhard Url, argues that it was legitimate to make this change in order to make these materials ‘accessible’ to non-specialist audiences. We disagree with this assessment.

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The EU commission has claimed that there will be no lowering of food safety standards in the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) that is currently being negotiated with the United States. However, an examination of the EU’s negotiating position shows that they are already offering changes which could lead to increased amounts of pesticide residues in food in the EU in the future.

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On 24th March I took part in an event in Brussels, organised by EurActiv, discussing the relationship between the REACH chemicals regulations and the Circular Economy, in particular the interaction between REACH & recycling. The other panelists included representatives of the European Commission (both DG Environment and DG Growth), the plastic pipe industry and an MEP, Paul Rübig.

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CHEM Trust have discovered that the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) have admitted that the abstract of January’s risk assessment of the commonly used hormone disrupting chemical bisphenol A incorrectly stated that there was ‘no health concern’.

CHEM Trust wrote to the EU Health Commissioner on 25th February complaining about EFSA’s misrepresentation of the risk assessment and had a reply from DG Health dated 24th March. EFSA changed the text of the abstract on 25th March 2015, the next day. It seems highly likely that CHEM Trust’s letter triggered this change by EFSA.

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CHEM Trust have written to the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) to ask them why they misrepresented the results of their risk assessment of the commonly used hormone disrupting chemical bisphenol A (BPA). The risk assessment, published in January, concluded that there was a ‘low health concern’ from exposure to bisphenol A – yet the EFSA press release said there was ‘no health risk’, which does not mean the same thing. CHEM Trust has already written to the EU Health Commissioner on this matter, but his department referred us back to EFSA.

** Update: Since we sent the letter on 31st March, we have found that EFSA made corrections to the abstract of the BPA risk assessment on 25th March 2015 – see this blog post for details. **

** Update 2: We received a reply to this letter on Friday 17th April – for details see this blog.**

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