EU Denies Holding Back on EDCs Under Pressure

26.05.2015 -

The European Commission has denied reports it held back on farther-reaching legislation regulating endocrine disruptors (EDCs) due to pressure from both the chemical industry and the US government.

In their recently published report entitled A Toxic Affair, campaigners at pressure group Corporate European Observatory (CEO), in cooperation with French journalist Stéphane Horel, charged that in delaying action the EU was bowing to the industry's interests.

The report cited emails from European chemical companies such as BASF and Bayer, as well as US major DuPont, the European Chemistry Council CEFIC and the European Crop Protection Association (ECPA), urging that an assessment of the legislation's impact on the European economy first be carried out.

Earlier this year, the British newspaper The Guardian claimed to have seen an unpublished EU paper asserting that the risks associated with exposure to even low-potency endocrine disruptors were high. At the same time, it quoted an unidentified Commission source as saying the paper was "buried by top EU officials" under pressure from big chemical firms.

In 2013, acting on a prior vote of the European Parliament, the Commission's Directorate General for the Environment (DGEV) was due to present criteria for identifying suspected endocrine disruptors such as phthalate-based plasticizers, pesticides, electronics, personal care products or cosmetics, paving the way for new regulations but changed courses later, deciding on an impact assessment instead.

In mid-2014, when then-Swedish environment minister, Lena Ek, threatened to sue the Commission over the delays, environment commissioner Janez Potocnik cited the complexity of the issue, the evolving science and the diverging views existing among scientists and stakeholders as reasons for further study.

Due to the time lapse, scientific criteria needed to shape any EU legislation may not be available before 2017.

CEO asserts that not only the chemical industry but also the Commission's health arm, Directorate General SANTE, and its business arm, DG Enterprise, lobbied against the EDC legislation.

Quoting EU-internal documents it said it has obtained, the anti-pesticide grouping Pesticide Action Network (PAN) alleges that US trade authorities also pressured the EU leadership to shelve action on endocrine-disrupting chemicals in order not to endanger the fragile Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) negotiations.

The EU's draft scientific criteria could have led to bans on 31 pesticides containing endocrine disrupting chemicals (EDCs), PAN says. According to the network's information, the American Chamber of Commerce (AmCham) leaned on Brussels to take a risk-based approach to regulation, stressing the need for an impact assessment instead.

The Commission has denied deliberately dragging its feet on endocrine disruptors, saying the need to look at thousands of documents was behind the delay.

Terming the CEO report "inaccurate and misleading," CEFIC Director General Hubert Mandery said, "it is in our interest to have clear scientific criteria as a basis for regulatory action as soon as possible." CEFIC has forwarded its opinion to the Commission asking for a science-based approach, he added.

A TTIP position paper on chemicals published by the Commission in 2014 pointed to endocrine disruptors as a one of the "new and emerging scientific issues" which the EU and the US could consider for enhanced regulatory cooperation under the proposed trade pact.