A historic vote took place last week as the first substances ever were recorded as endocrine disruptors (EDCs) for human health under REACH. The vote, which took place in the REACH committee with representatives from all EU member states, was especially positive since the EDC criteria decision for pesticides and biocides trail behind considerably.
The vote may seem like a small step, as the four phthalates in question have already been identified as Substances of Very High Concern (SVHCs) and are on the Candidate List. All of these substances – the plasticisers, BBP, DBP, DEHP and DiBP – have previously been recorded as toxic to reproduction under REACH, and DEHP has earlier been recognised as an EDC for environment.
The identification of these substances as EDCs for human health, however, has been delayed since last September due to disagreements among member states.
So, why is this new vote important?
Well, while the consequences for substances on the Candidate List are the same no matter the reason for inclusion on the list – whether it’s because they are recorded as harmful to the environment or toxic to reproduction etc. – it will be important in the consequent Authorisation Process, where the conditions for continued use of the substance are set.
“Obtaining authorisation to use a human health EDC in consumer products should now be very difficult as no safe threshold levels can be established for EDCs”
Obtaining authorisation to use a human health EDC in consumer products should now be very difficult as no safe threshold levels can be established for EDCs. That is why this is a huge victory for protection of consumers, and that was also the why the Danish environmental minister, Esben Lunde Larsen, welcomed this breakthrough that Denmark has long fought for.
But perhaps even more important in the bigger perspective is that this shows that it’s possible, even in the absence of criteria, to agree that some substances must be recognised as Substances of Very High Concern based on their endocrine disrupting properties only. This recognition is an important first step towards improved protection of human health.
Personally I’m really hopeful that this progressive outlook stays intact the upcoming week, as there is already another important vote taking place: member states are supposed to vote on the current EDC criteria proposal for pesticides and biocides. This proposal, which ChemSec has covered in the past, actually fails to protect both human health and the environment. For this reason I’m hoping that all progressive member states make the right voting decision once again.
Dr. Anna Lennquist
ChemSec Senior Toxicologist