Potentially endocrine disruptors chemicals: updated assessment for the E.U. of their impact on human health and the environment.

Highlights prepared by GreenFacts of the report “State of the Art Assessment of Endocrine Disrupters” which presents the results of a project commissioned by the European Commission, DG Environment

http://ec.europa.eu/environment/endocrine/documents/4_SOTA EDC Final Report V3 6 Feb 12.pdf

The report summarises advances in the state of the science since 2002 and maps out ways of dealing with endocrine disrupters in important pieces of EU chemicals regulation, such as e.g. the Plant Protection Product Regulation, PPPR (1107/2009), the new Biocide Regulation and the chemicals regulation, REACH (1907/2006).

1. The context of concerns about endocrine disruption and its relation to some chemicals  

During the last two decades evidence of increasing trends of many endocrine-related disorders in humans has strengthened.

Although the correct description of disease time trends is often complicated by a lack of uniform diagnostic criteria, unfavourable disease trends have become apparent where these difficulties could be overcome. There are negative impacts on the ability to reproduce and develop properly. There is good evidence that wildlife populations have been affected, with sometimes widespread effects. Continue reading

Environmental impact of micro-plastics present in marine litter: assessment and recommendations for a strategy

Highlights selected by GreenFacts from the executive summary of a report by GESAMP (2010) of microplastics in the marine environment and of the JRC report (2011) on Technical Recommendations for the Implementation to marine litter of the Marine Strategy Framework Directive requirements                                                                                                              (An update of the Highlight edition of Dec, 2010)                                                                       

In short: The question raised by the GESAMP is whether the micro-plastic could contribute to the bioaccumulation of toxic contaminants in marine life. Recent studies seem to reveal no increase in the concentration of these contaminants in areas of accumulation of plastic in the oceans and the solutions lie primarily in the management of waste on land and at sea.

Moreover, a technical subgroup under the Working Group on GES in relation to the Marine Strategy Framework Directive 2008/56/EC investigated the monitoring approaches for marine litter and provides a set of monitoring tools which can be employed for that purpose.

 1. The report on th GESAMP symposium


1.1. evaluation of the environmental impact of plastic litter and micro-plastics

 It is well documented that plastic litter causes physical harm to marine mammals, fish and invertebrates and instances of death by entanglement, asphyxiation or blockage of organs are common. It is also known that plastic particles tend to accumulate persistent, bioaccumulating and toxic contaminants such as PCBs, DDT and PBDEs. One of the greatest uncertainties is whether this leads to the bioaccumulation of the contaminant load (absorbed and plastic additives), and hence whether micro-plastics represent an additional and significant vector for transferring pollutants.

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Farming, erosion, biodiversity or contamination: the declining state of soil in Europe

Highlights by GreenFacts from a report issued by joined forces of the European Environment Agency (EEA) and the European Commission’s Joint Research Centre:  The state of soil in Europe


Eight major aspects of soil degradation in Europe have been identified :  biodiversity decline, compaction, contamination, erosion, landslides, organic matter decline, salinisation and sealing . Further, acidification, desertification or biofuels production are other potential threats to soil integrity considered in this report. All these problems have considerable economic and environmental consequences and could eventually compromise food production.  Poor land management, such as deforestation, overgrazing, construction activities and forest fires are among the main causes of this situation. Continue reading

Alzheimer, cancer : scientific assessments on toxicity, danger and health risks from aluminium exposure in food, antiperspirant and dermatology products.

A short GreenFacts overview of three health assessments related to aluminium exposure and aluminium products :

1)  the Scientific Opinion of the Panel on Food Additives, Flavourings, Processing Aids and Food Contact Materials (AFC) of EFSA adopted in 2008;

2)  the statement of EFSA on the Evaluation of a new study related to the bioavailability of aluminium in food ;

3)  the Risk assessment by the French Agency AFSSAPS related to the use of aluminum in cosmetic products.




1. In summary

Based on the the available scientific data, the EFSA [1] Panel does not consider exposure to aluminium via food to constitute a risk for developing Alzheimer’s disease despite the fact it has been suggested that aluminium could be implicated in the aetiology of Alzheimer and other neuro-degenerative diseases. EFSA also considers unlikely aluminium to be a human carcinogen at dietary relevant doses.

The EFSA Panel established a Tolerable Weekly Intake of 1 mg aluminium/kg body weight/week. Recently, EFSA evaluated a new study (2011) on the oral absorption of a various aluminium compounds and considered that the results did not provide any additional information that could modify their conclusions reached in 2008.  EFSA also considered that the Tolerable weekly Intake of 1 mg/kg body weight/week is likely to be exceeded in a significant part of the European population The French Agency AFSSAPS[2] evaluated the exposure and the potential health effects related to dermal exposure. Their conclusion was that there are insufficient data to establish a clear relationship between the use of underarm aluminum-based antiperspirants and breast cancer. In this context, AFSSAPS recommends to restrict the concentration of aluminum in cosmetic products at 0.6% and not to use cosmetics containing aluminum on damaged skin. Continue reading

The public needs better communication on the new label system regarding the safe use of chemicals.

A GreenFacts synthesis of the report “ Safe use of chemicals-  Study on the Communication of Information to the General Public”  European Chemicals Agency – ECHA – January 2012


Two surveys[1] related to the understanding of labels and the safe use of chemicals indicate that the new labels (pictograms) used from 2010 to indicate the dangers on chemical products are scarcely understood by the general public: only a few pictograms are recognised.  This  is actually not surprising due to the novelty of CLP pictograms and their use not so widespread an ad most chemicals used by
consumers are actually mixtures, and the CLP provisions will only apply to mixtures as of June 2015.  A
wareness-raising activities should thus be targeted at the general public and the level of understanding of European citizens revisited at a later date, when their experience and acquaintance with the pictograms will then have developed, preferably after 2015.

For example, the exclamation mark is familiar to many  (44%), perhaps because it is seen in a number of different situations, but understood by only 11 %. On the other hand, the environmental hazard pictogram is familiar to few, and yet many say they can understand its meaning. These new labels, already applied to substances, must have also replaced the old hazard pictograms on all mixtures by 2015.

These new labels and the associated “precautionary statements” originate from the Globally Harmonized System (GHS) of Classification and Labelling of Chemicals and its transpisition into the European legislation “CLP”[2]. This worldwide initiative classifies chemicals by types of hazard and proposes harmonised hazard communication instruments, including safety data sheets (for workers) and labels (for both consumers and workers). Continue reading

Cold snap of February 2012 and climate change: Is there a link ?

The climate is already changing, especially in the Arctic, where permafrost is melting, glaciers are retreating and ice is disappearing.

Changes in the Arctic will not only have an impact on populations and ecosystems, but also the rest of the planet, because the Arctic plays a special role in global climate.

How Arctic climate has changed so far, and how should it evolve ?

Evaluating the impact of climate change in the Arctic (ACIA, for Arctic Climate Impact Assessment) is an international project of the Arctic Council and the International Arctic Scientific Committee (IASC ) to evaluate and synthesize knowledge on climate variability, climate change and increased ultraviolet radiation and its consequences. The results of this evaluation were presented to the International Scientific Symposium of the CFIA in 2004 in Reykjavik, Iceland.

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Mobile phone and brain cancer: radiofrequency electromagnetic fields classified by IARC (WHO) as possibly carcinogenic to humans.

mobile phone

Highlights summarized by GreenFacts of the IARC classification and of the Interphone study, update of  Nov 2011.

On May 31, 2011 the WHO/International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) has classified radiofrequency electromagnetic fields as possibly carcinogenic to humans (Group 2B)[2] , based on an increased risk for glioma, a malignant type of brain cancer, associated with wireless mobile phone (or cell phone) use.


The evidence was reviewed critically, and overall evaluated as being limited among users of wireless mobile telephones for glioma and acoustic neuroma, and inadequate to draw conclusions for other types of cancers. The evidence from the environmental exposures mentioned above was similarly judged inadequate. The Working Group did not quantitate the risk; however, one study of past mobile or cell phone use (up to the year 2004), showed a 40% increased risk for gliomas in the highest category of heavy users (reported average: 30 minutes per day over a 10‐year period).

This has relevance for public health, says the report, particularly for users of mobile phones, as the number of users is large and growing, particularly among young adults and children.

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EU criteria for risk assessment of persistance, bioaccumulation and toxicity of chemicals

GHS-pictogram-environment dangerA summary prepared by GreenFacts of the COMMISSION REGULATION (EU) No 253/2011  of 15 March 2011

This regulation is amending Regulation (EC) No 1907/2006 of the European Parliament and of the Council on the Registration, Evaluation, Authorisation and Restriction of Chemicals (REACH) as regards Annex XIII

16.3.2011 Official Journal of the European Union L 69/7


1. The specific importance of persistance, bioaccumulative and toxic properties for managing risks

The identification of persistent, bioaccumulative and toxic properties of substances (PBT substances), and very persistent and very bioaccumulative substances (vPvB substances) is important in order to evaluate their intrinsic potential impact to affect human health and the environment and assess the real risks.

This is also the basis on which define regulatory rules regarding their use, substitution or ultimate ban, depending on each specific case (within the global EU chemicals Regulation or more specific Regulations such as the one on electric/electronic equipments (RoHS Regulation) .

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