Brussels feels pressure on gender-bending chemical ban

Over 100 experts on endocrine disrupters have presented Brussels with a declaration calling for further regulation of a whole raft of gender-bending chemicals.

The scientists from the Cluster of Research into Endocrine Disruption in Europe (Credo) met in Prague last month to discuss their growing concerns about the chemicals, their impact on the environment and on humanity itself.

While research on some of the suspect chemicals is still inconclusive, many are now clearly proven to have adverse effects on gender development and fertility.

The scientific community has long been concerned about a whole range of chemicals, but by delivering the Prague Declaration to Europe’s leaders they have upped their game and brought the issue into the public arena.

Suspected endocrine disrupters come from a wide range of chemicals found in plastics, fire retardants, cosmetics, pesticides, detergents and pharmaceuticals.

It has been known for some time that the chemicals are reaching European waterways and disrupting the development of aquatic species, leading to reports of hermaphrodite fish (see related story).

Elsewhere in the world they have been linked to genital mutations and modified behaviour in fish-eating land mammals.

Last month, in two separate studies, American scientists showed that at least one type of disrupter, a family of chemicals known as phthalates, affected the sexual development of boys while another, bisphenol-A, increases the risk of cancer by altering the growth patterns of breasts in girls.

Both chemicals are commonly used in plastics and found in everyday products (see related story).

While the science is still inconclusive in some areas, Credo is calling on the EU to follow its own advice and use precautionary principles in regulating suspect chemicals (see related story).

The declaration says that wildlife has served as an early warning system alerting us to problems that may not yet have been observed in humans but could nevertheless be having an impact.

It calls for an outright ban on the most potent known disrupters and a minimum of cautionary labelling on those suspected of posing a problem or having a weaker effect.

By Sam Bond

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