Endocrine Society Experts Concerned EU Chemical Criteria Will Not Protect Public

July 27, 2016

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European Commission’s proposal ignores state of science on endocrine disruptors

Washington, DC - The European Commission’s narrow criteria for endocrine-disrupting chemicals will make it nearly impossible for scientists to meet the unrealistically high burden of proof and protect the public from dangerous chemicals, the Endocrine Society said in a response sent to the Commission today.

More than 1,300 studies have found connections between endocrine-disrupting chemical (EDC) exposure and serious health conditions such as infertility, diabetes, obesity, hormone-related cancers and neurological disorders, according to the Endocrine Society’s 2015 Scientific Statement.

The European Union is the largest single economy with a regulation specific to EDCs. In order for it to be enforced, this regulation requires the European Commission to propose criteria to identify EDCs, similar to those used for the identification of carcinogens or other health hazards.

Despite the body of evidence, the European Commission’s proposed criteria call for waiting until a chemical is known to cause adverse effects relevant to human health before taking action. Since it can take years or even generations for the health effects of EDCs to become apparent, this approach would allow chemicals to cause significant harm to populations before the chemicals could be regulated. When research shows that a given chemical is harmful to animals or human cells, that scientific evidence needs to be taken into account.

“The European Commission’s restrictive definition defeats the purpose of the regulations—to shield the public from endocrine-disrupting chemicals that pose a threat to human health,” said Rémy Slama, PhD, a member of the Society’s European Union Endocrine-Disrupting Chemicals Task Force. “By adopting these criteria, the Commission has set the European Union on a course to abandon the precautionary principle. Regulation of chemicals should err on the side of protecting the public and the environment from harm. Asking for an even stronger level of scientific evidence for endocrine disruptors than for carcinogens, for which the level of proof required is already very high, would be going in the wrong direction.”

The Society submitted a public comment responding to the European Commission’s criteria today. As the oldest and largest global membership organization representing scientists and physicians who are experts on the body’s system of glands and hormones, the Society has been advocating on the European Union’s definition of EDCs since 2013.

EDCs can mimic, block or interfere with hormones that regulate key biological functions, including brain development, reproduction, metabolism and growth. Bisphenol A and other EDCs can be found in common products, including food containers, plastics, cosmetics and pesticides.

Failure to effectively regulate EDCs comes with a high price tag. Recent studies have found that adverse health effects from EDC exposure cost the European Union more than €163 billion each year in healthcare expenses and lost productivity.

The Society has supported a tiered regulatory approach that would rank EDCs based on available scientific evidence. As the European Parliament and member countries consider whether to implement the European Commission’s criteria, the Society will continue to advocate for criteria that reflect the state of the science.

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Endocrinologists are at the core of solving the most pressing health problems of our time, from diabetes and obesity to infertility, bone health, and hormone-related cancers. The Endocrine Society is the world’s oldest and largest organization of scientists devoted to hormone research and physicians who care for people with hormone-related conditions.

The Society has more than 18,000 members, including scientists, physicians, educators, nurses and students in 122 countries. To learn more about the Society and the field of endocrinology, visit our site at www.endocrine.org. Follow us on Twitter at @TheEndoSociety and @EndoMedia.