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Commission breached EU law by delaying criteria on EDCs

A rare and crucial court judgement against the EU Commission was released today. The EU Court of Justice found in favour of Sweden’s case against the Commission for failing to fulfil its legal obligations regarding EDCs.

Sweden took the EU Commission to court after it missed its legal deadline to put forward scientific criteria to identify hormone disrupting chemicals, also known as endocrine disrupting chemicals (EDCs) by the end of 2013. Several Member States, including Denmark, France, and the Netherlands joined the case, along with the entire EU Council of governments, and the EU Parliament.

The court found that the EU Commission had a clear obligation to adopt measures on the identification criteria by 13 December 2013 and no factors such as effects to the internal market, or putative scientific disputes changed that obligation. The court also found that no part of the regulation requires an impact analysis. There was intense industry lobbying on EDCs which aimed to get an ‘impact assessment’, and the need to conduct this impact assessment is the reason the Commission gave for ignoring the law (2).

Lisette van Vliet, Senior Policy Adviser, Health and Environment Alliance (HEAL), says:

“This is a rare moment: the Commission’s abuse of the power given it by Parliament and Council has been declared by Europe’s highest Court. Will the Commission now curtail the Impact Assessment or will they continue regardless, with further delay at the expense of public health?”

EDCs interfere with the body’s highly sensitive hormone system. Studies point to EDCs causing obesity, diabetes and cancer. (3) Even tiny amounts of EDCs pose particular risks to unborn children and infants. Policies are urgently needed to reduce human exposure. (4) Costs attributable to exposure to a selected sample of endocrine-disrupting chemicals (with only the highest probability of causation) were recently estimated at €157 billion per year in the EU. (5)

The EU Commission is currently conducting an impact assessment to analyse different options for defining the criteria for the identification of EDCs. The Commission intends the final criteria to serve for the biocides law, and the pesticides law (which has a similar requirement) as well as other laws that do not directly require identification criteria, such as the chemicals law REACH, and the cosmetics law. (6) The impact assessment is expected to delay the setting EU criteria for defining EDCs until 2017 at the earliest.

HEAL has long maintained that is it not legitimate to conduct an assessment of social, economic and environmental impacts in order to determine scientific identification criteria. HEAL also insists that the delay on criteria is causing unnecessary further exposure of the public to EDCs, which is harmful for health.

(1) ECJ press release
(2) See Corporate Europe, A Toxic Affair, How the chemical lobby blocked action on hormone disrupting chemicals and Intoxication: endocrine disruptors, lobbyists and eurocrates: a battle of influence against health.
(3) The Endocrine Society published its Second Scientific Statement on EDCs in September 2015, in which it says there is no longer any doubt that exposure to these chemicals, found in food and consumer goods, are contributing to some chronic endocrine-related diseases. The Endocrine Society is the world’s oldest, largest and most active organisation devoted to research on hormones and the clinical practice of endocrinology. Its 2nd Scientific Statement is here The statement includes a review of 1,300 studies on EDCs, which show more evidence than ever of the links between EDCs and health problems including: obesity and diabetes, female reproduction, male reproduction, hormone-sensitive cancers in females, prostate cancer, thyroid, and [disruption of] neurodevelopment and neuroendocrine systems.
(4) The Endocrine Society’s Second Scientific Statement says: “it is more necessary than ever to minimize further exposures”. See press release here
The WHO / UNEP report on EDCs: “EDCs have the capacity to interfere with tissue and organ development and function, and therefore they may alter susceptibility to different types of diseases throughout life. This is a global threat that needs to be resolved”.
(5) Trasande L, Zoeller RT, Hass U, Kortenkamp A, Grandjean P, Myers JP, et al. Estimating burden and disease costs of exposure to endocrine-disrupting chemicals in the European Union. J Clin Endocrinol Metab 2015;100(4):1245–55.

Originally posted on 16 December 2015

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