Hormone-disrupting chemicals: time for the EU to act against these everyday toxicants

BEUC NEWS - 29.07.2016

Endocrine disrupting chemicals (EDCs) are used in many products that consumers come in contact with every day: from skin creams, children toys and textiles to paper receipts and food containers. Scientists have linked these chemicals to severe human health problems including infertility, obesity and cancer.


BEUC has published a new position paper on the need to better protect consumers. Today’s EU laws largely fail to protect consumers from exposure to EDCs. That is because the EU lacks concrete criteria that define what EDCs are and how they should be regulated.

Last month - almost three years after a legal deadline - the EU Commission finally proposed such criteria. However, the Commission’s proposal is inadequate and it will fail to protect consumers. Based on the proposed criteria, the EU would need to postpone action until scientists can show that a chemical actually harms consumers. As such, the proposed criteria conflicts with the precautionary principle - enshrined in the EU Treaty - namely that protective action should prevail in the face of scientific uncertainty.

A few highlights from our paper:

  • An EU definition of endocrine-disrupting chemicals needs to identify both those chemicals we know are EDCs as well as those we suspect to be;
  • The flawed EDC criteria proposed by the Commission seem to confirm concerns that TTIP distracts the EU from better protecting consumers against these harmful chemicals.
  • Given the little information available, it is almost impossible for consumers to avoid products that contain EDCs;
  • Expensive does not necessarily mean 'EDC free'. Our French and Belgian members found EDCs in some expensive brand creams, but not in the cheaper alternatives;
  • More often than not safer alternatives do exist.

Our full position is available here.