Coming this far – to a proposal accepted by a majority of Member States – has been anything but straightforward. Paved by scandals, dirty industry lobbying and lawsuits, the proposal’s shaky journey has ended with a fall, a hard fall. However, it’s a victory for democracy.
The main reason for the rejection is that the Commission attempted to go beyond its mandate, which was to develop scientific criteria for identification of EDCs, by trying to introduce major loopholes in the form of derogations.
Several legal analyses have already pointed out that this is illegal. It was also the main reason why the discussions among Member States took more than one year. In June a majority of Member States finally agreed to support the proposal. This was quite unexpected as France suddenly shifted position, apparently receiving support for a EU wide EDC strategy in return. What will happen with this strategy and what will come now is up in the air.
The rejected criteria regard pesticide regulation only. However, criteria for biocides have been put forward in a parallel process and these two were planned to align with one another.
The ECHA and EFSA have already spent many months drafting guideline documents for the implementation of the criteria, and a public consultation on these was expected to take place within weeks. For the moment, it is unclear what will happen with the guideline process as well as with the biocides criteria.
When I left ecotoxicology research and joined ChemSec in early 2011, ChemSec was just in the run-up to launching an updated SIN List that included EDCs. I was surprised when I was told that EDCs were something quite new and “hot” in the policy world. For me they were not. They were something that had already been part of my undergraduate studies.
The aim of the 2011 update was to show the urgent need to develop EDC criteria and that, while waiting, EDCs could be identified on a case-by-case basis using a weight-of-evidence approach. We included 22 substances on the SIN List based solely on EDC properties. After this update EDCs were also added to the Candidate List, albeit at a slow pace.
When we planned for the 2014 SIN List update, we were not certain whether or not we would have EDC criteria in place by the launch. We still chose to evaluate another set of chemicals and included another ten EDCs. Since then, these 32 EDCs have constituted the most well founded list of REACH relevant EDCs globally. It would appear now that the SIN List will retain this role for a long time yet.