News 2017 / December

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Scientific understanding of chemicals is sufficient, top scientists want authorities to do more

“The EU won’t put up a fight against hazardous chemicals,” seven of Sweden’s most prominent chemical scientists argue in a recently published op-ed (in Swedish). The EU Commission is more concerned about protecting the economic worth of chemicals than protecting its citizens’ health. But perhaps a bit ironically, studies show that the health costs for society due, for example, to endocrine disrupters, are in the range of 160 billion euros per annum.

Based on available research, the scientists express deep concerns about the health effects of certain chemicals that are present in many everyday products. “Hundreds of studies show that hazardous chemicals are present in blood, urine, amniotic fluid and breast milk. That means that fetuses, infants, children and adults are constantly exposed to these substances all their lives,” the scientists write.

Legislation has failed to identify hazardous chemicals before people are exposed, and authorities are forced to work reactively – after exposure has already occurred. This has created a situation where legislation is moving extremely slowly, simply because there are many too factors and uncertainties to consider when assessing the risks of chemicals. This fact is then used by industry to systematically question the scientific results that serve as basis for legislation.

ChemSec fully agrees with the scientists’ sentiments.

“While acknowledging that that there are blind spots in the scientific mapping of effects of chemicals, the authors rightly put the problem where it belongs: It is not primarily the lack of scientific data that prevents policy makers to take action on hazardous chemicals. It is the lack of political will and a favouring of industry arguments,” says Anna Lennquist, senior toxicologist at ChemSec.

Furthermore, risk assessments are often done on a case-by-case basis and thus overlook the fact that we are constantly exposed to many chemicals at the same time. The results of these risk assessment are therefore not always applicable to reality.

The health and environmental aspects connected to hazardous chemicals are of the same magnitude as the climate change issue, the scientists conclude.