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Europe’s opportunity to stop hormone disruption crushed

Brussels, 15 June 2016 - Today, the European Commission dashed all positive expectations with a proposal that will fail to protect Europeans from exposure to hormone or endocrine, disrupting chemicals (EDCs).

These substances have been recognised by the scientific community as a major threat to human health and the environment. (1)

After a delay of nearly three years, the Health Commissioner has presented documents (2) that lay out the criteria for identifying EDCs. These criteria are needed to allow existing pesticide and biocide regulations to function - and to become powerful measures for preventing hormonal cancers and other endocrine-related health conditions, such as diabetes and infertility.

The Health and Environment Alliance (HEAL) is astounded by the proposal.

“What the Commission has proposed today will not prevent diseases related to endocrine disrupting chemicals. The requirements are so strict, the burden of proof so high that we’ll have years of harm to health before we can remove them. This is not what the legislation requires, which is, that EDCs may cause adverse effects are banned.”

“Even worse, it would cripple the use of accumulated (and future) knowledge about effects on animals, which should be used to prevent harm to human health. A scientific consensus (3) exists on how best to identify these harmful chemicals (Option 3 of 4 in the roadmap (4)) but the College of Commissioners have not chosen to follow it,” says HEAL’s senior policy officer, Lisette van Vliet.

“Miners took canaries underground to alert them in case of lethal danger, because when the birds died the miners could still evacuate in time. These proposed criteria place an unacceptably high burden of proof on evidence to identify substances as endocrine disruptors making it equivalent to using humans as the canaries in the mine. That is a completely unacceptable gutting of the laws’ protection of health and goes against decades of acknowledged best practice in early detection and prevention of harm from chemicals.”

“HEAL wants to see the EU use the option supported by scientific consensus because it makes the best use of existing evidence and can take on new evidence. It adopts the successful practice of ranking chemicals into categories, such as “known”, “suspected” or “potential” EDCs, like the system for carcinogens. We believe that the law requires this by stipulating that the criteria are to identify and ban hormone disruptors which `may cause adverse effects´ and not only those with a proven causal link.”

HEAL says that EU Member States should not accept the Commission’s current proposal. The biocides expert committee is due to discuss the proposal on 8 July and the Pesticides Standing Committee on 11-12 July.

“We call on Member States and MEPs to block these criteria until and unless they are significantly improved - or vote to reject them. The criteria must include the World Health Organization definition of potential endocrine disruptors and the modification to the Pesticides derogation on negligible exposure must be eliminated.”

An article by leading scientific experts published in The Lancet Diabetes & Endocrinology (13 June) supports Option 3. It also says that an assessment of the strength of the evidence has been used in studies on the cost of managing health consequences of endocrine disruptors in the EU. The finding - with more than 99% probability – is that this cost exceeds €160 billion per year. (6)

Last year, the European Court of Justice condemned the Commission for the delay in presenting the criteria. (7) A recent vote in the European Parliament overwhelmingly condemned the Commission for its failure to comply with the original deadline. (8)

Lisette van Vliet, Senior Policy Officer, Health and Environment Alliance (HEAL), Email: Mobile: +32 484 614 528

Genon K. Jensen, Executive Director, Health and Environment Alliance (HEAL), Email:

HEAL members react to Commission’s criteria on EDCs:
The Alliance for Cancer Prevention – The Alliance for Cancer Prevention reacts to the proposed EDC criteria from the EU Commission (17 June, 2016)

PAN Europe - EU Health Commissioner Andriukaitis decides to leave Europeans unprotected from endocrine disrupting pesticides (15 June 2016)

Wemos – Weak criteria hormone-disrupting substances (15 June 2016)

WECF – Commission’s EDC criteria proposal: More humans will have to be harmed before action is taken (15 June 2016)

Breast Cancer UK – News: European commission crushes expectations on regulation of EDCs(15 June 2016)

Generations Futures - Perturbateurs Endocriniens : Définition des critères(15 June 2016)

Reseau Environnement Sante - COMMUNIQUÉ DE PRESSE : Perturbateurs endocriniens : la Commission européenne accepte la définition de l’OMS …formulée en 2002 !(15 June 2016)

• Alborado Fondation - Signs letter with 28 NGOs in Spain

Reaction Endocrine Society:
Please click here for the press release of the Endocrine Society.

Environmental ministers ask Commission for more protective EDC criteria:
Please click here to read a letter from the Environment Ministers from France, Sweden and Denmark asking for more protective EDC criteria.

Notes for journalists
1. World Health Organization, State of the Science of Endocrine Disrupting Chemicals – 2012

2. European Commission - Press release, Commission presents scientific criteria to identify endocrine disruptors in the pesticides and biocides areas and all documents here:




6. Trasande L, Zoeller RT, Hass U, et al. Estimating burden and disease costs of exposure to endocrine-disrupting chemicals in the European Union. J Clin Endocrinol Metab 2015; 100:1245–55.


8. https://www.theparliamentmagazine.e...

Peer-reviewed articles:
Scientific Issues Relevant to Setting Regulatory Criteria to Identify Endocrine Disrupting Substances in the European Union. Slama et al. 2016. EHP

Science-based regulation of endocrine disrupting chemicals in Europe: which approach? Bourguignon et al. 2016. Lancet Diabetes Endocrinol.

CHE call recording available: Using Science to Set Regulatory Criteria: Identifying Endocrine Disrupting Chemicals in the European Unionwith co-author Dr Remy Slama, INSERM, France. Slides & 30 minute audio recording. _

Last updated on 4 July 2016

About HEAL

The Health and Environment Alliance (HEAL) is the leading not-for-profit organisation addressing how the environment affects human health in the European Union (EU) and beyond. HEAL works to shape laws and policies that promote planetary and human health and protect those most affected by pollution, and raise awareness on the benefits of environmental action for health. Read more »


HEAL has over 70 member organisations, representing health professionals, not-for-profit health insurers, doctors, nurses, cancer and asthma groups, citizens, women’s groups, youth groups, environmental NGOs, scientists and public health institutes. Members include international and Europe-wide organisations, as well as national and local groups. Read more »

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