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France launches EDC strategy with a clear message for Europe

Ségolène Royal, the new sustainable development minister and former French presidential candidate, recently announced a national strategy on endocrine disrupting chemicals (SNPE) in France. France’s move on EDCs is a push for greater action at EU level.

The Strategy was presented to a French national council, which approved the Strategy. A key component of the French national strategy is promoting the need for progress on EDC policy at the European level, making France a driver for health and environment protection in Europe. According to a summary of the text (Main actions (in French)) the strategy sets the reduction of population and environmental exposure to endocrine disruptors as its primary objective.

With the strategy, the French government announced the following specific actions: propose removal of bisphenol A (BPA) from thermal paper (used in cash-till receipts) for the whole of Europe and encourage voluntary phase out in France; speed up the substitution of BPA in toys, and measures controlling phthalates in toys. The French environment minister also requested the review of five suspected EDCs during the course of this year (and 10 more in the next two years). If these substances are found to be EDCs, France may propose them for further regulatory action under the different EU legislation: REACH, Pesticides or Biocides.

A key message for the EU is that France will be promoting the reduction of exposure to EDCs as a key component in health and environmental protection. Gone is the suggestion that France might call for a relaxation of EU criteria for excluding pesticides with endocrine disrupting properties, which is a result of advocacy work from many health and environmental groups including HEAL members.

The strategy comprises of five components: support for research, stimulation of innovation, strengthened expertise through analysis of suspected EDCs, the promotion of this approach at European level, and, the improvement of information for citizens, including stressing the need for international standards on labelling.

Full document is available here: French strategy on EDCs (in French)

HEAL members key players in pushing EDCs forward

Three HEAL members in France (Réseau Environnement Santé, Générations Futures, and Women in Europe for a Common Future) have been key players in ensuring that this long-awaited development has finally take place.

Réseau Environnement Santé (RES), which has played a significant role in raising the issue in scientific and public circles, welcomed the “almost unanimous adoption of the strategy”. RES said that the text represents a remarkable step forward in recognising "the importance of the issue of endocrine disrupters as a risk for public health and the environment." More information available here

In particular, RES was pleased that the strategy was recognised as an opportunity – rather than an obstacle – for employment growth: the recommendation to substitute EDCs for alternatives will stimulate innovation and competitiveness.

Générations Futures’ reaction focused on the pledge in the strategy not to call for a relaxation of EU criteria related to pesticides. It considered this to be an important victory for its work, which has been to consistently urge the French government to rule out the possibility of revising the criteria (which was recommended in an early draft of the strategy). HEAL, PAN Europe, and Réseau Environnement Santé have made similar demands in the past.

Women in Europe for a Common Future (WECF) in France welcomed the strategy less enthusiastically due to disappointment that it did not ban EDCs in children’s toys. “Where has the ban on endocrine disrupters in toys gone?” they asked. Their online joint campaign to stop endocrine disrupting chemicals being used in toys (Stop PE) had received 30,000 signatures. In addition, a survey of people involved in France’s multi-stakeholder group for the development of the strategy showed more than half 1,056 responses supported WECF’s petition.

Originally posted on 14 May 2014

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