On the December 1, 2016 news provider Environmental Health News (EHN) published three investigative articles by journalist Stéphane Horel on the controversy surrounding endocrine disrupting chemicals (EDCs). The articles were originally published by the French newspaper Le Monde on November 29, 2016 and translated into English by the non-profit organization Health and Environment Alliance.
In her first article, Horel outlines how the European Commission (EC) based its proposal of criteria to identify EDCs in the field of plant protection products and biocides (FPF reported) on a premature conclusion drawn by the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) in 2013. In its Scientific Opinion on the hazard assessment of EDCs (FPF reported), EFSA stated that “[EDCs] can . . . be treated like most other substances of concern for human health and the environment, i.e. be subject to risk assessment and not only to hazard assessment.” According to Horel, Le Monde has obtained internal documents of the European administration showing that EFSA’s conclusion “had been drafted even before any scientific expertise had really begun.” The documentation further shows that the EC seemingly guided EFSA to this conclusion to direct EU regulation back towards risk assessment and thus potentially protect trade interests. However, the Plant Protection Products Regulation (PPPR, (EC) No 1107/2009) foresees a hazard-based approach that bans “pesticides a priori identified as ‘endocrine disruptors.’” Therefore, the regulation required the definition of criteria for the identification of EDCs by the end of 2013. The EC breached EU law by missing the deadline for said criteria (FPF reported) and further by changing legislative text which exceeds its implementing powers (FPF reported).
The second article explains that the EC mostly credits studies financed by industry “to justify its much criticized choices in the regulation of endocrine disruptors.” As described in her first article, “above all, the Commission cites the opinion issued by . . . the European Food Safety Authority, in 2013,” Horel writes. The two Scientific Statements on EDCs by the Endocrine Society of 2009 and 2015 (FPF reported), as well as the WHO/UNEP report on EDCs (FPF reported) concluded that there is no “doubt that EDCs are contributing to increased chronic disease burdens related to obesity, diabetes mellitus, reproduction, thyroid, cancers, and neuroendocrine and neurodevelopmental functions” and that EDCs are a “global threat that needs to be resolved.” However, these compilations of scientific evidence were disqualified by the EC because the “evidence is scattered and its interpretation controversial.” Instead, the EC relies on articles critical of the peer-reviewed EDC science that were authored by consultancies and “toxicologists paid by the chemical, pesticides and plastic industries,” Horel unveils.
In the third article, Horel describes the influence of the U.S. on the pace and direction of the EU’s EDC regulation. “The principle of ‘hazard assessment’ a priori antagonizes the U.S. government,” Horel explains and refers to the comments of the U.S. government provided within the scope of the EC’s public consultation on its proposed EDC criteria in July 2016 (FPF reported). “Implementation of any hazard-based ‘cut off’ option, as outlined in the EC roadmap, that removes the requirement for conducting a full risk assessment could have severe implications for EU imports of U.S. agricultural goods,” the U.S. stated. Together with other countries and industry organizations, the U.S. claims that the EU regulatory strategy for EDCs using no risk-based approach is non-compliant with the Agreement on the Application of Sanitary and Phytosanitary Measures (SPS Agreement) under the World Trade Organisation (WTO).
Stéphane Horel (December 1, 2016). “Endocrine disruptors: The manufacture of a lie.” EHN
Stéphane Horel (December 1, 2016). “Endocrine disruptors: A denial of the state of the science.” EHN
Stéphane Horel (December 1, 2016). “Endocrine Disruptors: The interference of the United States.” EHN