EU fails again to agree way to ban hormone disruptors

Funky nail varnish nail art with biohazard symbols in yellow and black on two hands
Nail varnish is one of many everyday products that may contain hormonal disruptors and other potentially harmful chemicals

HOPES of cutting the amount of chemicals in everyday use have received a blow after the European Parliament failed for the third time to agree a definition of endocrine disruptors present in pesticides, biocides and cosmetics.

With reports showing that these hormonal disruptors are present in cosmetics, skin cleansing products, nail polish and even baby creams, there have been numerous calls to ban them – but EU countries want to know exactly what they are banning.

The EU Standing Committee on Plants, Animals, Food and Feed was expected to define scientific criteria identifying such chemicals yesterday but failed again.

An agreement would have allowed MEPs to set rules concerning their use and prevent potential harm to babies, children and adults with the chemicals blamed for cancers, infertility, birth defects, obesity, diabetes and developmental disorders.

A previous bid, in June last year, was criticised by members, with some arguing that hormonal changes were not enough proof to ban the use of pesticides, which they said were crucial for agriculture and other manufacturing processes.

Some also argued that pesticides killed bacteria attacking the plants – and this protected human health and not the opposite.

The European Commission accepted yesterday’s failure but said it would keep researching ways to prove the chemicals could harm health. “Progress was made and we will now reflect on how to proceed further”, said spoksman Enrico Brivio.

France is seen as a leader in the fight against endocrine disruptors as it banned the use of Bisphenol A (a chemical used in the production of plastics) in 2015, the only country to do so in the EU.

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The majority of European countries – including France – said the definition offered by the Commision was too restrictive.

Sandrine Gras from the anti-chemical Générations Cobayes association, said the problem was “that the Commission aimed to prohibit the use of pesticides before defining them”.

However, she is convinced that they must be banned, simply because they harm human health.

She added: “Until the definition is set, everyone must reduce consumption of products containing endocrine disruptors.”

Ms Gras added: “Products will never be perfectly healthy. If the European Union agrees on the ban of chemical use, there are always going to be imported products in the market that don’t follow the same rule.

“But the reduction will be worth it.”

Consumer action group UFC Que Choisir last month published results of tests on everyday products and showed if they contained potentially damaging chemicals. You can find the full list (in French) at the Que Choisir website

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