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On Thursday 20th November CHEM Trust, along with other civil society organisations, delivered a letter for President Juncker to the European Commission’s headquarters building in Brussels. The letter asks the new President of the European Commission to take action to minimise our exposure to hormone (or endocrine) disrupting compounds.

The letter criticises the Commission’s current consultation on options for criteria for hormone disrupting chemicals, arguing that the consultation is biased towards identifying direct costs to industry, rather than the benefits of action to reduce exposures to hormone disrupting chemicals. These benefits include new business opportunities from innovating to use safer chemicals and benefits to public health and the environment from taking action.

The science around hormone disrupting chemicals has been strongly contested, particularly by the pesticides and chemical industries, who manufacture many of the affected substances. However, a number of substantial scientific reviews have examined the evidence, and a large number of scientists have backed the importance of action on hormone disrupters:

A new study, commissioned by Nordic governments and published today (press release here), finds that the damage to male reproductive health from exposure to hormone (or endocrine) disrupting chemicals is likely to cost many millions of euros every year in the EU.

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Phthalates are a group of chemicals used in a wide range of products – this introduction from a 2013 scientific paper is a good summary:

“Phthalates are a group of ubiquitous chemicals present in many consumer products, including building materials, furnishings, clothing, paints, food packaging, toys, personal care products and pharmaceuticals. Many of them are or have been produced in very large quantities. Phthalates can be released into the environment by leaching, evaporation, migration, abrasion or application of phthalate-containing personal care products. Due to their widespread use, the general population is continuously exposed to phthalates.”

The research paper that is the source of this quote is looking at children’s exposure to phthalates,  by measuring breakdown products in their urine. It also looks at how the phthalates are getting into the children, and concludes that for some of the phthalates much of it is coming from dust and indoor air, whereas for others they are coming from other sources. This study also finds that many of the children in the study are being exposed to above the safety level of some of the phthalates.

It’s worth noting that the use of some – but not all – phthalates is controlled in the EU – but these controls are not always obeyed, as in the case of the Loom Band Charms.

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New research shows that thermal receipt paper – which you probably have sitting in your purse or wallet now – can contaminate your hands with hormone disrupting Bisphenol A (BPA), which can then be absorbed into your body.

The research, published today in the peer reviewed open access journal PLOS ONE  (full paper here), looked at what happened if men and women held receipts after using a hand sanitiser, and then ate french fries with their fingers. Within 90 minutes they found substantial amounts of Bisphenol A in the blood serum and urine of their experimental subjects.

Till receipts are such a routine part of daily life, yet this research shows that the bisphenol A used in them can rapidly move through our skin & into our bloodstream. This chemical has been used for decades & it is shocking that the scale of this exposure has only just been identified. This pollution is particularly worrying, as research has linked bisphenol A to a wide range of medical problems, from cancer to diabetes.

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Chemicals in food packaging: a can of worms?

Back in July, a report from the Food Packaging Forum highlighted that many hazardous chemicals are used in food contact packaging – and we wrote a letter to EU Health Commissioner Borg expressing our concerns about the situation. The Commission has since stated that it is soon to start a study of this issue at the EU’s Joint Research Centre (JRC).

On October 9th the Food Packaging Forum organised a conference to discuss this problem in more detail. The agenda, pdfs of presentations and videos of the presentations are all available on the conference web page.

I attended the conference and found it very interesting – and eye-opening in parts! It re-emphasised the need for the regulations in this area to be revisited, showed the importance of the science on low dose effects of the widely used chemical Bisphenol A and also opened a can of worms around the wide (and largely unknown) assortment of chemicals that really leach out of packaging. [read more]

Last Tuesday I spoke at a Chemical Watch conference in Brussels as part of a day of presentations and discussion about enforcement of EU chemical laws like REACH.

As I emphasised in my presentation, REACH is supposed to provide a high level of protection for human health and the environment. This won’t happen if companies can dodge their legal responsibilities or if they can register chemicals with poor quality or incomplete information. My talk highlighted 3 issues: [read more]

The hormone disrupting chemical Bisphenol A (BPA) is currently used in around 70% of thermal paper in the EU – the paper that is used for many till receipts in shops.

The French Government has proposed that there should be an EU-wide ban on this use of Bisphenol A, due to the risks to workers and consumers. Their detailed submission is available on the European Chemical Agency (ECHA) web site here.

CHEM Trust strongly supports this proposal for a ban on BPA in this use, and we’ve submitted our own comments to ECHA backing this ban: [read more]

Why the green economy needs to pay more attention to SIN

The Green Economy is a big deal these days. Most forward-thinking companies realise that their future lies in being low carbon and resource efficient – and many also talk about the importance of nature, tropical forests for example.

Some companies are also actively trying to reduce the hazardous chemicals in their supply chains – for example the multinational electronics & textile companies being targeted by Greenpeace, or the US retailers Walmart & Target with their ‘Sustainability Summit‘.

However, despite these sectoral initiatives (often encouraged  by NGO action), the overall Green Economy/sustainability debate all too often ignores the chemicals used in products – and other pollution-related issues like air and water pollution.

Why does pollution so often fail to get a look in? Shouldn’t we be talking about ‘zero pollution’ along with ‘zero carbon’ ‘zero waste’ and ‘zero deforestation’? [read more]

Endocrine disrupting chemicals (EDCs) are chemicals that can disrupt the functioning of the endocrine (or hormonal) systems of humans or wildlife. There are EU laws in place that can restrict their use – but they will only work if there is agreement on how to decide if a chemical is an EDC.

The issue of criteria to identify EDCs is therefore vital, as it affects which chemicals will be regulated – for example the pesticides and biocides regulatory system can ban the use of EDCs. The system for regulating industrial chemicals (REACH) can subject EDCs to authorisation, where companies must apply to continue to use them, otherwise they are off the market.

The EU Commission has just released a consultation on what the criteria should be. Here’s the CHEM Trust response: [read more]

A new report  “Chemical conflicts”, from Corporate Europe Observatory (CEO) – who specialise in exposing corporate lobbying – finds that two-thirds of scientists advising the EU on controversial substances have industry links.

CEO looked at four recent case studies of chemicals that had been examined by the European Commission’s Scientific Committees: parabens, nano titanium dioxide, nano-silver and mercury.

The Scientific Committees involved included the Scientific Committee on Consumer Safety (SCCS), the Scientific Committee on Health and Environmental Risks (SCHER) and the Scientific Committee on Emerging and Newly Identified Health Risks (SCENIHR). [read more]