Anglo-Welsh endocrine disrupters plan launched

Environment Agency outlines action areas as new row erupts over chemicals, health

The Environment Agency of England and Wales yesterday published a strategy on chemicals that affect endocrine, or hormonal, systems in animals or humans. The document acknowledges that more national and international research is needed, but stresses that "actions are needed now to minimise discharges of certain substances".

Publication of a formal strategy follows a consultation paper issued two years ago (ENDS Daily 21 January 1998). Endocrine disruption is an emerging issue in international chemicals regulation; an EU strategy on endocrine disrupters emerged last December (ENDS Daily 21 December 1999).

Key elements of the English/Welsh strategy are action now to reduce emissions of already controlled chemicals that may also be endocrine disrupters, and new controls on some alkylphenols and steroids. The document proposes developing environmental quality standards for alkylphenols and steroids, which are released in large quantities from sewage works.

Other elements include encouraging industry to implement voluntary reduction measures and reviewing whether more can be done under the national integrated pollution prevention and control regime for industrial plants. The strategy also proposes research targets, such as further investigation of the fate and behaviour of natural and synthetic endocrine disrupters in different environmental media.

* In a related development, a new study on "multiple chemical sensitivity" by the British Society for Allergy, Environmental and Nutritional Medicine (BSAENM) has sparked a row between industry and environmental groups.

The BSAENM report calls for a cut in public exposure to "synthetic and pollutant chemicals...so that fewer individuals become sensitised". "Since it is impossible to prove that chemicals are entirely safe," it says, "the precautionary principle should be invoked" and exposures reduced, "whether the compounds have been shown to be hazardous or not".

Welcoming the study, Friends of the Earth, England, Wales and Northern Ireland (FoE) called on the government to "force industry to only use chemicals that they have shown to be safe". In an angry response today, the UK Chemical Industries Association (CIA) accused both organisations of "scaremongering". A few people are sensitive to - for example - detergents or natural gas, the association said. But "there can be no question of society ceasing to use detergents or gas cookers". "The answer must be to manage the risk by minimising the exposure of those who are sensitive."

Follow Up:
Environment Agency of England and Wales, tel: +44 1454 624 400, and the agency's Endocrine disrupters strategy. BSAENM, tel: +44 1547 550 380, and summary of {{Multiple Chemical Sensitivity Recognition}} & {{Management}}. See also press statements from {{FoE}} and {{CIA}}.

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