MEPs call for hormone chemical phase-out

Parliamentary resolution demands EU action on hormone mimics, more scientific research

The European Parliament has passed a non-binding resolution calling for hormone-mimicking substances to be phased out - but not before the scientific facts are made clearer.

The non-binding resolution, drawn up by Danish Socialist Kirsten Jensen, demonstrates serious misgivings among MEPs about the use of endocrine-disrupting chemicals (EDCs). It states that, with little scientific evidence about the possible dangers to human and animal fertility and other health effects, the precautionary principle requires that the substances be removed from the market.

The resolution's radical approach was tempered, however, by an amendment, successfully proposed by German Conservative MEP Ursula Schleicher, stating that "sounder scientific data" were needed before the EU could draw up legislation to this effect. The amendment is at odds with much of the rest of the resolution, which states that "slavish risk assessment" of existing chemicals should not be used as an excuse by the chemicals industry "for making changes either very slowly or not at all".

Similar doubts over how real are the risks posed by EDCs are at the centre of a debate currently raging in the EU about children's PVC toys containing the plasticisers phthalates. A number of countries have already introduced bans, to the fury of industry which says such bans have no scientific basis and are contrary to EU single market rules (ENDS Daily 25 September).

The legislative approach recommended by Parliament this week would involve the Commission drawing up a list of hormone-mimicking substances. Any currently in use would then be phased out, while marketing licences would be refused for any new substances. It says that scientific committees should address certain industry sectors as a priority: healthcare and cosmetics, PVC, toys, washing powders and foodstuffs because of potential EDC residues from pesticides. The chemicals industry should be able to cope with any cost of the changes, according to the resolution, because "it is still a high-growth sector in Europe".

The resolution also calls for more research on the effects of EDCs on human endocrine systems, sperm quality and the nervous system, as well as for the Commission and member states to establish standardised tests for use in future product authorisation procedures.

The European Commission is due to publish its own policy paper on EDCs before the end of the year and it is unknown to what extent Parliament's views will be reflected in this. EU commissioner Neil Kinnock told the Parliament that he favoured a "reinforced research strategy by the Commission" and that it was important to provide adequate information for the public.

Follow Up:
European Parliament, tel: +32 2 284 2111.

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