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Action needed to minimise EDC risk, says UK charity

By Joe Whitworth , 20-Feb-2013
Last updated on 20-Feb-2013 at 14:28 GMT

The head of a UK charity has said “enough is enough” on the back of a UN report published yesterday calling for more research on endocrine disrupting chemicals (EDCs).

Clare Dimmer, Chair of Breast Cancer UK said the report sounds alarm bells over the routine exposure to EDCs and uncovers a glaring gap between the high level of scientific concern and present government policy.

She told FoodProductionDaily.com chemicals such as bisphenol A (BPA) could always be put back into products if in time it is found that benefits outweigh the problems.

The UN report from the World Health Organization (WHO) and The United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) said more research was needed to assess potential effects on health and added only the “tip of the iceberg” has been looked at.

It said the speed with which the increases in disease incidence have occurred in recent decades rules out genetic factors as the sole explanation, but said other factors such as nutrition, age and chemical exposure are difficult to identify.

Time to act

Dimmer said: “We believe in the precautionary principle but there is enough action to take preventative action now. There is enough science to reduce the exposure if not ban.

“Enough is enough, there have been enough studies linking EDCs to breast cancer – and other diseases - yet the government refuse to act. I am horrified on some days to see how short-sighted the government is.”

Dimmer rejected the no impact from a miniscule amount theory, adding that some of the processes the body goes through are at miniscule amounts and said while the chemical may be excreted straight away, enough can be kept back to have an effect.   

“Lots of suspected EDCs were rubber stamped into REACH, such as BPA which has been around for years, and no-one looked at the health issues and they just presumed it was safe. Manufacturers say that a lack of data shows safety, but it doesn’t, what it shows is ignorance.

“What we are hearing now from the chemical industry is the same arguments we heard 50 years ago from the tobacco industry.  Records began in 1971 for breast cancer and I really hope we don’t have to wait another nine years before they bother to take action.”

She added it was “time to bite the bullet” and take action with the UN report published yesterday adding to their “small voice” to apply pressure to the government.

Breast Cancer UK called for the Government to take a greater precautionary approach to EDCs and include them as risk factors in their UK Strategy for Cancer. At the rate which diseases, like breast cancer, are increasing the NHS will be unable to cope in a “very short time”, they added.

Consumer confusion?

She also cited the issue of labelling and stressed the importance of consumers being given the option to choose.

Dimmer suggested making bioplastic number 8 in the markings on plastic containers, mainly used for recycling purposes, instead of its current number 7 where plastics containing BPA can reside, to avoid confusion that either all or none of the number 7 labelled plastic contains BPA.

“They say it is complicated for the consumer but really they make it appear complicated, when it really is not.

“It could be a major opportunity for manufacturers and government to take up green chemistry ideas to replace chemicals with eco-friendly and biodegradable alternatives."

The UN report said three strands of evidence fuel concerns over endocrine disruptors: the high incidence and the increasing trends of many endocrine-related disorders in humans; observations of endocrine-related effects in wildlife populations and the identification of chemicals with endocrine disrupting properties linked to disease outcomes in laboratory studies.

It added that uncertainties and knowledge gaps still exist that are too important to ignore.