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The response of governments and industry to hormone disrupting chemicals

Governments

European Union

The European Commission published its strategy on endocrine disruption in December 1999 (full text in pdf format available here). It was originally expected to include a list of 20-30 suspected endocrine disrupters (ENDS Daily, 1999), but this list is now postponed to April 2000. The EU also published a communication on the precautionary principle in February 2000; the full text is available here.

Several endocrine disrupters are under review as part of the very slow Existing Substances process (see the alkylphenols page for an example). The EU is currently reviewing its chemicals policy, having accepted that it is not effective enough - more details on the Friends of the Earth site.

In March 1999 the Commission's Scientific Committee on Toxicity, Ecotoxicity and the Environment published a report on endocrine disruption: "Opinion on Human and Wildlife Health Effects of Endocrine Disrupting Chemicals, with Emphasis on Wildlife and on Ecotoxicology Test Methods".

UK

The UK Government published its new chemicals strategy in December 1999 (more details, including Friends of the Earth's response, available on Friends of the Earth's Safer Chemicals Campaign Pages)

The Environment Agency of England and Wales issued a consultation document on endocrine disrupters in the environment in January 1998 [available on their website]. Friends of the Earth's response is available on the Safer Chemicals Campaign web site. The Environment Agency finally published their strategy in March 2000; it's available on their web site. However, the strategy ended up even weaker than the consultation document.

USA

The US EPA has finalised proposals to screen thousands of chemicals for endocrine disrupting chemicals (more information on their site). A US EPA review of endocrine disruption is available on the web. There are no signs yet of any new controls on existing chemicals, even the alkylphenols, which are already being phased out in Europe.

The US National Academy of Sciences published a report on 'Hormonally Active Agents in the Environment' in July 1999. The full text is available here, though it's in a format which forces you to load the pages one at a time, and is very slow.

International

The OECD has a programme on endocrine disrupters, mainly focusing on development of testing procedures. More information on their site.

The UN is currently negotiating a global treaty covering certain persistent organic pollutants (POPs), including PCBs, Dioxin and DDT, with criteria for adding new chemicals. There's more information on the UNEP POPs site. A similar agreement, the POPs protocol, has already been negotiated among the UN Economic Commission for Europe - more information on the here. The International POPs Elimination Network is an NGO coalition against POPs - their site is here.

Industry

It has taken some time for industry to wake up to the significance of the problems of hormone disrupting toxicity. Most relevant industry associations have issued statements about hormone disrupting chemicals, generally stating their concern, calling for more research before action and trying to claim that the effects are not likely to be significant when compared to phytoestrogens. Some companies have stopped using suspect chemicals, whilst others will probably continue using them unless they are banned (see examples on other pages).

The industry on a global level has initiated a research programme; the quality of this research and how useful it will be are questions that remain to be answered. Industry has an unpleasant habit of designing research to protect its products. One anonymous academic said to the journal ENDS Report:

"Industry do studies that muddy things up - they confuse the issues - then you have to go back and start over again. I would not accept their funding unless it came through an independent medium" (ENDS, 1999)

A cynical student of industry PR techniques might see interesting parallels between the industry approach to endocrine disrupting chemicals and a campaign strategy leaked to Friends of the Earth from the UK Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders - available here.


This page was last updated in February 2000
Return to the hormone disrupting chemicals home page


References

ENDS, 1999. Industry glimpses new challenges as endocrine science advances. ENDS Report 290, p26-30.

ENDS Daily, 4th October 1999, EU Experts identify priority hormone chemicals.


URL: http://website.lineone.net/~mwarhurst/policy.html