Priority EU endocrine chemicals list floated

Commission study sets out draft list of 66 substances for further testing, possible restrictions

The European Commission has circulated to EU governments a first draft priority list of probable endocrine disrupting chemicals that should be targeted for further risk assessment and possible control actions. The 66 substances have all been identified by at least one scientific study as potential endocrine disrupting chemicals (EDCs). The list, a copy of which has been obtained by ENDS Daily, will form the basis of consultation with industry and NGOs before a final priority set of substances is adopted.

The establishment of a priority list of EDCs was the first action proposed in a European Commission strategy to tackle the chemicals published last year (ENDS Daily 20 December 1999). The strategy is needed because, as a commentary on the new draft list states, "there is conclusive evidence for effects [such as cancers and reproductive abnormalities] on wildlife, but the evidence for effects on humans is varying and sometimes contradictory."

Produced for the Commission by Dutch consultants BKH and TNO, the draft list was whittled down from a set of 564 "candidate" substances suggested by previous action lists from various sources. Of these, the consultants focused on 147 chemicals that are produced in high volumes or are very persistent in the environment.

For 66 of them - termed category 1 substances - evidence of endocrine disruption already exists, and for all but six of these researchers found a "high exposure concern" for both humans and wildlife. The list includes well-know toxic substances such as DDT, PCBs, organotins and dioxins, but also some pesticides, styrene, and some of the phthalates already targeted for phase-out in some children's toys (see hyperlink to the full list below).

Only eleven of the five-hundred-plus candidate substances are cleared in the consultants' report as non-EDCs. On the other hand, 205 were not even assessed for possible endocrine disrupting properties as there was insufficient data on whether they were persistent in the environment.

Exactly which and how many substances end up on the definitive EU list will depend on the consultation and internal Commission discussions. Once adopted later this year or early next, those chemicals not already being assessed under the EU's existing substances programme will be tested to see whether indications that they pose a threat are well-founded. If they do the Commission will come forward with legislative proposals to control them.

The tests are currently being developed at global level by the OECD but have not yet been finalised. EU scientists have recently criticised the slow progress and MEPs in the European Parliament's environment committee are expected to call for faster unilateral EU action tomorrow when they vote on a resolution responding to the Commission's strategy.

Follow Up:
European Commission, tel: +32 2 299 1111; see also the list of category 1 chemicals.

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