Use of suspected hormone chemicals defended

Industry groups reject UK agency call for precautionary action, say priority list is "premature"

The UK's Chemical Industries Association (CIA) has rejected a call from UK regulators for precautionary action on chemicals suspected of disrupting human and animal hormonal systems.

"Based on the available scientific evidence we are unable to support the preventative action being proposed in the [agency's] report," the group says in response to a consultation paper from the Environment Agency of England and Wales.

According to the industry, "the majority of recent scientific reports have failed to show any direct link between synthetic chemicals and endocrine disruption". It says the agency's proposal would "result in the withdrawal of chemical products on the basis of 'concern' rather than a firm causal link."

In January, the agency, issued a strongly-worded warning that industry should consider whether the use of hormone-disrupting chemicals was necessary (ENDS Daily 21 January). Publishing a priority list of chemicals, it urged industry to "start thinking about it now".

But the CIA dismisses the agency's priority list as "premature". Until a "robust and reproducible" testing protocol for endocrine disruption has been developed, it contends, "no reliable prioritisation can take place". Developing such a protocol should be the top priority.

The CIA also alleges that the agency has based key conclusions on laboratory tests rather than evidence of effects in live animals or humans and that it has put too much emphasis on findings of reproductive effects in fish.

A more "holistic" approach is needed, the group says, including more research into the effects of natural oestrogens such as phyto-oestrogens. The CIA wants further examination of other potential sources of hormone-disrupting chemicals, such as the release of natural steroids from intensive dairy farming.

The CIA's paper also includes comments on specific suspected endocrine disrupters from three European chemical industry groups. One criticises the agency's inclusion of alkylphenol ethoxylates (APEs) on its priority list. The APE task force of the European Committee of Organic Surfactants and their Intermediates says it is "inappropriate to recommend the phase-out of APEs and other industrial chemicals based on perceived hazard alone". It would cost up to Ecu1.2bn to substitute APEs the task force says.

Defences of two other chemicals on the priority list - phthalate plasticisers and Bisphenol A resin components - are also presented by the European Council for Plasticisers and Intermediates and the Bisphenol A sector group of the European Chemical Industry Council.

Follow Up:
UK Chemical Industries Association, tel: +44 171 834 3399.

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