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Institutional framework

EU strategy on endocrine disruption

Environment DG


icon Institutional framework

In 1996, a European workshop organised in Weybridge, UK, bringing together 70 scientists and policy-makers from the EU, USA and Japan as well as organisations such as the Organisation for economic co-operation and development (OECD), the World Health Organisation (WHO), the European Science Foundation (ESF) and the European Chemical Industry Council (CEFIC) and non-governmental organisations, concluded, among other things, that:

  • There is evidence that testicular cancer rates are increasing
  • The apparent decline in sperm counts in some countries is likely to be genuine
  • Endocrine-disrupting effects observed in birds and mammals could be due to the use of chemical substances with endocrine-disrupting properties
  • Exposure to endocrine disrupters should be dealt with measures in line with the “precautionary principle”.

As a result of the workshop findings and due to increasing public concern, in 1998, the European Parliament adopted a report and a resolution on the topic of endocrine disruption, calling upon the European Commission to take specific actions, in particular with a view:

  • to improving the legislative framework
  • to reinforcing research efforts
  • to making information available to the public.

In 1999, the European Commission’s Scientific Committee for Toxicity, Ecotoxicity and the Environment (SCTEE) presented its opinion Human and wildlife health effects of endocrine-disrupting chemicals, with emphasis on wildlife and on ecotoxicology test methods, which concluded that “impaired reproduction and development causally linked to endocrine-disrupting chemicals are well documented in a number of wildlife species and have caused local and population changes”. Public policy-makers were urged to address this issue. It was proposed that the European Commission adopt a strategy with short-, medium- and long-term actions in order to respond quickly and effectively to the problem.

As a consequence, in the same year, the European Commission adopted a Communication to the Council and European Parliament on a Community Strategy for Endocrine Disrupters [COM(1999)706 final, PDF format : ~ 386 kb PDF file - 167Kb]. Recommendations were made for short-, medium- and long-term actions.

In 2000, EU environment ministers, meeting in the Council of the EU adopted conclusions on the Commission’s Communication, in which it stressed the need to develop quick and effective risk-management strategies and the need for consistency with the overall chemicals policy. The Council invited the Commission to report back on the progress of the work at regular intervals: the first report was delivered in early 2001 [COM(2001)262, PDF file - 241 Kb]. A new report is expected in 2004.

In 2000, the European Parliament adopted a resolution on endocrine disrupters, emphasising the application of the precautionary principle and calling on the Commission to identify substances for immediate investigation and action.

Since 2000, the recommendations outlined in the Commission’s Communications, by the Environment Council, and the European Parliament, are being implemented through the short-, medium-, and long term strategy of the European Commission, managed by the Directorate-General for the Environment with research efforts being supported by the Directorate-General for Research.

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