The UK should ignore economic pressure to water down a European ban on chemicals linked to disease
It has emerged that chemicals found in everyday household products may be contributing to rising rates of cancer, diabetes, brain diseases and fertility problems. Foetal development is particularly sensitive.
Environmental watchdog the European Environment Agency (EEA) has launched a report saying that products that disrupt the hormone system (known as endocrine-disrupting chemicals, or EDCs) should be treated with caution until their true effects are better known. This comes at a time of important changes in chemicals legislation, with the European parliament deciding that pesticides should be banned if they possess endocrine-disrupting properties. An intense debate about defining the criteria that should be used to classify a chemical as an EDC has ensued between EU member states, industry and environmental groups.
The stakes are high. Depending on how strictly the criteria are defined, the chemical industry will not be able to market certain pesticides. An example is the fungicide prochloraz which is widely used in agriculture and gardening. Other chemicals present in household plastics, such as certain phthalates, might be placed on severe restrictions.