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Global Progress Made on Endocrine Disrupting Chemical Regulation - Could Your Product be Affected?

01 November 2018

Criteria are now in place for the regulation of endocrine disrupting chemicals of certain product categories. With more scheduled to come into force in November and beyond, it’s important to keep tracks on your products to see if they could be affected by new regulation, explains Chris Turner. 

You’d be right in thinking that previous media crusades, such as GM crops and endocrine disrupting chemicals (EDs), have not been attracting much attention recently.

The mainstream media have been covering environmental concerns about the release and exposure to chemicals, but their current focus of attention, quite rightly, is on the volume of plastic waste either clogging up the oceans or being consumed by ocean animals in the form of microplastics

EDs have been, and continue to be, the subject of much debate and work amongst regulators, industry, NGOs and academia going back over 20 years. But now we have action. The EU has recently published set criteria and guidance on how to identify substances with endocrine disrupting properties in pesticides and biocides.

New criteria published for what is, and isn’t, an endocrine disruptor

In Europe, the EU Commission has been wrestling with the question of establishing scientific criteria to enable consistent assessment of exactly what is and isn’t an endocrine disruptor.

After much discussion and argument these criteria have now been agreed for:

  • Biocides - which are found in common disinfectants, mould inhibitors and anti-fouling paints. The criteria have been in force since 7th June 2018.
  • Pesticides - such as many common fungicides and herbicides used by professional and amateur growers. Criteria here will come into force on 10th November 2018.

automated chemical pesticide agricultureFor other regulatory regimes, such as industrial chemicals regulated by REACH, these general principles also apply to the developing, marketing and selling of products potentially containing such substances, so those involved in these processes need to be aware. 

Equally important is the Commission’s new guidance document for EDs. For the first time this document provides a systematic five-step approach to ED identification to encourage transparency in assessments for all stakeholders. Some industry observers think the approach is rather conservative, but this could be deliberately so. With European Parliament elections coming up in May 2019, consumer protection and in particular EDs, is sure to be a ‘hot topic’. It could also be a sign that the Commission is taking on board some of the criticisms of European consumer groups, who have accused it of being too slow to tackle ED issues in the past.

Further action on EDs across international borders

On the bigger stage, the UN has also been active in the ED field. Earlier this year, it published three reports commissioned by the International Panel on Chemical Pollution (IPCP). 

The main purpose of the IPCP report is to:

  • Provide up-to-date information to stakeholders
  • Facilitate scientific exchange
  • Improve intergovernmental and intersectoral understanding, coordination and cooperation as well as awareness of EDs.

UNITED NATIONS FLAGS SDGsThe first report looks at initiatives across the globe to identify EDs and potential EDs.  The second is an overview of the current knowledge of 45 EDs, which have been through at least one ‘scientific’ assessment; and the third report looks at existing national, regional, and global regulatory frameworks addressing EDs.

Because of the wide-ranging scope, these reports are very broad summary documents and don’t cover every detailed aspects of ED. Nevertheless, they do serve as a good starting point if you want to know the current state of play in the regulation of ED chemicals across the major economic regions.

It should not be forgotten that although most of these initiatives take place across national boundaries, individual nation states can still take action by themselves. An example of this is in France, with its ‘Stratégie nationale sur Perturbateurs Endocriniens’ (SNPE) which looks at substances which may have already been reviewed at the European level.  These initiatives mean substances could be regulated differently in individual countries, and these activities will be watched with interest by other national regulators. Anthesis is currently monitoring the actions of the French authorities and those on the European stage on behalf of our clients.

What does all this mean for your business?

Companies have full responsibility in how the chemicals they use or produce affect human health and the environment. Regulation is put in place as a safeguard, but with greater scientific advancements and knowledge, the landscape on chemical regulation is changing. And rapidly.

Not keeping up to date with these risks and regulations leaves your company vulnerable to products being removed from the market, risks a negative image with the consumer and possibly investor backlash. Taking action to review your product portfolio to assess whether potential EDs can be replaced by better alternatives will avoid these risks and also provide for long term stability, by selecting replacement substances which are less likely to be subject to future regulation.

Anthesis is well equipped to guide businesses on their journey to assess the risk to their products and advise them on looking at alternatives to keep them in the market.

Download our free chemical management and compliance guide to see how we can support you to make positive change to your organisation. 

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