Photo of child painting to illustrate story about Commission definition of endocrine disruptors protecting only chemicals industry

Commission’s endocrine disruptor definition only protects chemicals industry

The European Commission today presented its proposals for identifying chemicals which harm people’s hormones, known as endocrine disruptors.

Its criteria considerably weaken the protection of human health and the environment that was established by the EU pesticides and biocides regulation.

ClientEarth lawyer Vito Buonsante said: “The Commission’s proposal for identifying endocrine disruptors protects only the chemicals industry. Their criteria sets an unrealistically high burden of proof to show these toxics harm people, which is almost impossible to meet. It should be for chemicals manufacturers to prove their products do not harm people or the planet, not for society to prove they do.”

President Jean-Claude Juncker said the Commission wanted to ensure “the highest level of protection of both human health and the environment”, calling the proposed criteria “strict”. However the proposal protects only the interests of chemicals manufacturers.

Bar to prove endocrine disruptors harm people is too high

On the one hand, the proposal sets a very high burden on EU regulators to prove that substance may cause adverse effects on the human hormonal system, abandoning the precautionary and protective approach of EU chemicals legislation.

On the other hand, the proposals argue that each substance must undergo a specific risk assessment to prove an unacceptable risk for human health and the environment exists.

The proposal of the Commission reverses the burden of proof, making people the continued guinea pigs of industry by placing the burden to prove that pesticides and biocides that can harm humans on society.

Endocrine disruptors change the way people’s hormonal system works, increasing the risk of adverse health effects. These effects include non-descended testes in young males, breast cancer in women, prostate cancer in men, developmental effects on the nervous system in children, attention deficit and hyperactivity in children and thyroid cancer.

EU pesticides law allows endocrine disruptors to be outlawed, but it depends on a scientific definition of the hormone-harming chemicals. The Commission has delayed defining the chemicals since 2013, for which Sweden took it to court.

Today’s proposals still have to be approved by the EU pesticides committee, and face a potential veto in EU Parliament if MEPs are not happy with the Commission’s criteria.

ClientEarth is reviewing the legality of the Commission’s proposal and will publish findings in the next few days.

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Jim Pennucci

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