EU Regulators Bow to Pressure from American Trade Lobby on Endocrine Disrupting Chemicals

Washington, DC–(ENEWSPF)–May 28, 2015.  The same day that trade representatives from United States met with Secretary-General Catherine Day of the European Commission (EC), she sent a letter to the EC’s Environment Director-General Karl Falkenberg telling him to scrap draft criteria that could have led to a ban on over 30 endocrine (hormone) disrupting chemical (EDCs) in the European Union (EU). As reported by The Guardian, with resources obtained by Pesticide Action Network- Europe (PAN-Europe), the U.S. Chambers of Commerce and European-based chemical manufacturers (including Dupont, Bayer, and BASF) pushed to change the EC’s criteria for evaluating EDCs because they fear it would impede EU-US negotiations on the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP).

TTIP2Two regulations, one concerning “plant pest protectants” (EU 1107), and another on biocidal products (EU 528), should prohibit from use chemicals categorized as having endocrine disrupting properties that may cause adverse effects in humans. However, last year, when the EC released a roadmap for evaluating EDCs, recommendations fell far short of what health advocates assert that EU regulations require. Earlier this year, the Guardian reported that a scientific paper that would have adequately established ways to identify problematic EDCs was suppressed by EU officials at the behest of the chemical industry.

“We were ready to go with the criteria and a strategy proposal as well but we were told to forget about it by the secretary general’s office,” a commission source told The Guardian. “Effectively, the criteria were suppressed. We allowed the biocides and pesticides legislation to roll over.”

The options outlined in the weaker criteria are based upon a traditional risk assessment approach that would fail to take into account the health effects of lose-dose exposure to EDCs. Traditional risk assessments do not adequately address these impacts because they are based on an assumption that “the dose makes the poison,” and higher doses result in a greater effect. In a 2012 study on the low dose effects of EDCs published in Endocrine Reviews, scientists issue a stark warning on this under reported problem.

“We illustrate that nonmonotonic responses and low-dose effects are remarkably common in studies of natural hormones and EDCs. Whether low doses of EDCs influence certain human disorders is no longer conjecture, because epidemiological studies show that environmental exposures to EDCs are associated with human diseases and disabilities. We conclude that when nonmonotonic dose-response curves occur, the effects of low doses cannot be predicted by the effects observed at high doses. Thus, fundamental changes in chemical testing and safety determination are needed to protect human health.”

An international team of scientists tasked by the EC to study the impact of EDCs on health care costs published research finding that these chemicals result in over €150 billion ($162 billion) in health care costs in the EU each year. Pesticides were found to be the most costly of the EDCs analyzed, accounting for €120 billion ($130 billion) of the estimated total in healthcare expenditures each year. This total is approximately 1.23% of the EU’s GDP. Nearly 100 percent of people have detectable amounts of EDCs in their bodies, according to the introductory guide to EDCs published by the Endocrine Society and IPEN. As a recent article in Ars Technica notes, an “ambitious” assessment of TTIP’s economic benefits is approximately £100 billion (€ 140 billion/$153 billion) in 2027, meaning that Europe would save more money enacting its EDC regulations than it gains from TTIP.

The nefarious connection of these actions to trade with the US is certain to further intensify public distrust of TTIP trade negotiations both in Europe and America. In 2014, Beyond Pesticides joined with a broad array of health, environmental, labor, consumer and other organizations to express strong opposition to TTIP. Efforts in the U.S. have focused on blocking legislation which would grant “fast-track authority” to the President for six years, which would allow trade deals like TTIP to be completed without Congressional oversight.

Despite attempts from a number of U.S. Senators, including Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) and Bernie Sanders (I-VT), fast-track legislation has passed the Senate and is on its way to the U.S. House of Representatives. In an opinion article to the Washington Post, Senator Warren wrote on a clause within TTIP regarding “investor-state dispute settlements,” which would allow multinational corporations to challenge US laws it views as unfavorable by leapfroging the court system, and pleading its case in front of an international panel of arbitrators. “If the company won, the ruling couldn’t be challenged in U.S. courts, and the arbitration panel could require American taxpayers to cough up millions — and even billions — of dollars in damages,” Senator Warren wrote. “If that seems shocking, buckle your seat belt. ISDS could lead to gigantic fines, but it wouldn’t employ independent judges. Instead, highly paid corporate lawyers would go back and forth between representing corporations one day and sitting in judgment the next.”

Thus, in addition to lowering the entire EU’s criteria regarding toxic pesticides, TTIP has the potential to undermine local ordinances that restrict bee-toxic neonicotinoids and cosmetic pesticide use. Concerned residents must work as hard against fast-track as multinational corporations are working to make it happen. Take Action: Tell your Representative to oppose fast-track today!

For more information on EDCs, see Beyond Pesticides’ Pesticide Induced Diseases Database on Endocrine Disruption.

Sources: The Guardian, Pesticide Action Network Europe, www.beyondpesticides.org

All unattributed positions and opinions in this piece are those of Beyond Pesticides