Press release: 16 September 2020

New report addresses dangerous gaps in EU rules on hormone disruptors

Environmental lawyers ClientEarth have today published a 3-point action plan to address dangerous gaps in EU rules on endocrine-disrupting chemicals (EDCs), warning that current rules are too weak and leave the public and wildlife open to unacceptable risks.

The intervention comes as the European Union finalises its new Chemicals Strategy – part of the European Green Deal – aimed at curbing the harmful effects of toxic chemicals on people and the environment. The Strategy will include the conclusions of a fitness check on endocrine disruptors conducted over the last two years.

Endocrine disruptors can mimic, interfere with or block naturally occurring hormones, triggering abnormal processes in the human body. People are exposed to a constant cocktail of these harmful substances in day-to-day life: from bisphenols used in certain plastic bottles, to phthalates in toys and flame retardants used in sofas. They cause major health conditions including infertility, cancer and diabetes, as well as compromising the immune system and the development of the brain. Annual costs related to exposure to EDCs were estimated to be €163 billion in the European Union.

Dr Apolline Roger, chemicals project lead at ClientEarth, said: “Endocrine disruptors meddle with human and animal health with irreversible and serious effects. They are so deeply embedded in our day-to-day lives that no one can opt out of exposure. It’s the role of legislators to make sure that our exposure to hazardous chemicals like these is drastically reduced.

“But the truth is that endocrine disruptors are currently a blind spot in EU legislation. EU rules are at best patchy and ultimately inadequate when it comes to dealing with these misunderstood substances.”

In this new report, ClientEarth lawyers urge EU institutions and Member States to come up with three specific measures to better protect people and wildlife from harmful EDCs:

  1. Act now on already identified EDCs – The European Commission or (a) Member State(s) must launch a restriction process under the EU’s chemicals regulatory framework REACH to reduce all sources of exposure to identified EDCs, in a consistent way.
  2. Fix existing EU chemical screening systems – Most of those systems remain blind to endocrine disruptors’ hazardous properties. But the European Commission and EU agencies have the power to fix those issues by adopting implementing acts and new guidance without delay.
  3. Fill the legislative gaps – Existing sectoral laws need to be amended and new overarching provisions adopted to create a consistent and effective framework to deal with EDCs. The Commission must send the European Parliament and Council a legislative proposal that would implement those much-needed changes. That proposal should, among other things, create a coordinated list of EDCs that will be continuously and easily updated. This list will increase the visibility of EDCs and trigger automatic regulatory consequences so that all sources of exposure are consistently addressed.

The lawyers also point out that the EU has a legal duty to ensure that people and wildlife are protected against EDCs.

Dr Roger said: “The EU and its member states have a duty to prevent harm to their citizens, in particular the most vulnerable, and to wildlife, as set out in the European treaties, European legislation as well as international environmental and human rights law. There’s no doubt this includes reducing the irreversible harm that endocrine disruptors may cause.”


About ClientEarth

ClientEarth is a charity that uses the power of the law to protect people and the planet. We are international lawyers finding practical solutions for the world’s biggest environmental challenges. We are fighting climate change, protecting oceans and wildlife, making forest governance stronger, greening energy, making business more responsible and pushing for government transparency. We believe the law is a tool for positive change. From our offices in London, Brussels, Warsaw, Berlin and Beijing, we work on laws throughout their lifetime, from the earliest stages to implementation. And when those laws are broken, we go to court to enforce them.