The European Parliament has backed a proposal to list endocrine disrupting chemicals (EDCs) as “substances of very high concern” under the REACH legislation.
Current rules should be closely examined with a view to updating or proposing legislation by June 2015 at the latest, said the resolution approved yesterday (Thursday).
It was adopted by 489 votes to 102, with 19 abstentions.
The news comes a week before the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) is due to give a scientific opinion on EDCs.
Protection of public health
MEPs said that action should be taken to protect human health, especially pregnant women and infants despite question marks remaining over the impact of potential endocrine disruptors.
They also urged increased investment in research and called on the European Commission to propose criteria to define and assess endocrine disruptors.
The report recognises the effect of substances mixing together, and stresses that EDCs should be regarded as "non-threshold" substances –meaning any exposure may be classified as a risk.
“We welcome this report and call on the European Commission to put forward a set of criteria that reflects the strong intention of the European Parliament that EDCs needs to be restricted to reduce peoples exposure of EDCs,” said Frida Hök, ChemSec policy advisor.
Regulation under precautionary principle
The non-legislative report which was adopted by the parliament is expected to influence the European Commission's future work on EDC policy within REACH.
Swedish MEP Åsa Westlund, who wrote the report, said that even if all the answers are not available, there is enough known to regulate under the precautionary principle.
"This report aims to identify the way forward on how we should handle the issue of endocrine disrupting chemicals. I want to make it clear that the time for political action has come," said Westlund.
A United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) and the World Health Organization (WHO) report last month said only the “tip of the iceberg” has been looked at when it comes to EDCs.
The groups called for more research to assess potential effects on health and said that the vast majority of chemicals in current commercial use have not been tested at all.
HEAL welcomes action
The Health and Environment Alliance (HEAL) said the vote reflects the “serious concern and the strong desire” for EU policy action.
“The Parliament has rightly called for the European Commission and other legislators to take measures to reduce people’s exposures to endocrine disruptors, and that measures to protect health should not wait for final proof of causal links between EDCs and diseases,” said Lisette van Vliet, senior policy adviser for chemicals and chronic disease prevention at HEAL.
There is a need for strategy and laws around EDC exposures that people every day, she added.
“The laws should protect us before every last scientist and the chemical manufacturing industry organisations concede the relationship between our internal contamination and our expanding rates of endocrine-related diseases.”