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What is being done?

Introduction

Following the conclusions of the Weybridge Report and those of the SCTEE, it became imperative that the European Commission takes action to address the potential problems posed by endocrine disruptors (EDs).

In 1999, following consultation with stakeholders from across the EU, the Commission adopted the 'Community strategy for endocrine disruptors' (COM(1999)706). This strategy focused on short, medium and long-term actions that, when implemented, would contribute to ensure a better environment and health of people within the Union.

Short-term action

The short-term actions involve the setting up of information gathering exercises. These exercises will provide background information from which medium and long-term actions can be progressed and will also identify knowledge gaps that may need to be addressed in the future.

The short-term actions include:

  • Establishment of a priority list of substances for further evaluation of their role in endocrine disruption.

    This first step resulted in a study entitled "Towards the establishment of a priority list of substances for further evaluation of their role in endocrine disruption - preparation of a candidate list of substances as a basis for priority setting". A second step resulted in a study entitled "Study on gathering information on 435 substances with insufficient data". Finally a third step resulted in a study entitled: "Study on enhancing the endocrine disruptor priority with a focus on low production volume chemicals".

    The results of these studies are compiled in a database.

    To extract the database, please, follow these instructions:

    1. Download the zipped file to your hard-disk
    2. Unzip the file and run the database (by a double-click on EDS_2003_DHI2006.mdb).
    3. Minimum requirement: MS Access 2003 or later.
  • Monitoring levels of suspect chemicals in food and the environment.
  • Identification of vulnerable groups of people (such as children) who need to be given special consideration.
  • Establishment of an international network to enable information exchange and co-ordination of research and testing.
  • Communication with the public and continuing consultation with stakeholders.

Which substances are of concern? > (Priority list)

Medium-term action

The medium-term actions of the Commission's strategy centre on the practical and experimental activities needed to ensure that suspected chemicals are tested in a speedy and accurate way. The test development process is directed by the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD); the Commission contributes by coordinating the input of member states. These actions include:

  • The development and validation of internationally agreed test methods to assess endocrine disruption in people and wildlife.
  • The development of a European test strategy for identifying and assessing EDs that is consistent with similar strategies in other countries such as the USA and Japan.
  • The co-ordination and funding of international research into the underlying mechanisms of endocrine disruption and understanding how these mechanisms can impact on human health. The Commission is working closely with the World Health Organisation (WHO) through the International Programme for Chemical Safety (IPCS) in addition to overseas governments, departments and agencies. Research has been funded under the Fourth, Fifth and Sixth Framework Programmes for R&D and has been included in the calls for proposals under the Seventh Framework.
  • The identification of alternative chemicals to substitute those on the priority list will be undertaken when appropriate test methods for ensuring their safety of these substitute chemicals are available.

Long-term action

The long-term actions under the Commission's strategy relate to updating, amending or adapting the legislative instruments that protect the health of humans and wildlife in the EU. This includes:

  • Addition of new or adaptation of existing toxicity tests for hazard assessment and the adaptation of methodology for assessing the health risk to people and wildlife (risk assessment).

  • Updating the way in which chemicals are classified, packaged, labelled, used or marketed in order to ensure safe usage and disposal within the EU. Of particular relevance is the Commission's new Regulation (EC) No 1907/2006 concerning the Registration, Evaluation, Authorisation and Restriction of Chemicals (REACH). It will enter into force 1 June 2007 and addresses industrial chemicals with endocrine disrupting potential.

  • Legislation relating to the testing, assessment, use and disposal of specific substance groups such as pesticides, biocides and consumer products will also require review, so as to ensure that those with endocrine disrupting properties are properly managed (risk management).

  • EDs not addressed by specific legislation (e.g.natural substances and by-products such as hormones and dioxins) will be dealt with under environmental legislative instruments such as the Water Framework Directive (2000/60/EC), adopted in 2000, or through the adaptation of existing international legislation such as the UNECE POPs Protocol.