Category archives: Public health

Flawed and ineffectual Endocrine disrupting chemical criteria agreed by European Commission.

After years of delay and quibbling by the European Commission on how far it would go to protect EU citizens from Endocrine Disrupting Chemicals (EDCs) , the end results suggests not far enough! Up until now EDCs, which are linked to cancer, reproductive and developmental disorders, infertility and allergies, have had no effective regulation despite the fact that they can be found in a variety of products we live and work with on a daily basis. Scientists and independent scientific institutes have submitted evidence and written to the EC to express their concern about the ‘unfit for purpose’ EDC criteria. But despite scientific concerns and a petition signed by almost half a million people the Commission has now produced and agreed flawed criteria to assess EDCs which will fail to prevent unnecessary exposure for citizens and workers.

The criteria simply don’t go far enough and set the burden of proof so high for EDCs it’s unlikely many will be identified and therefore exposure will continue. The text as it stands will also allow an exemption for certain pesticides which are designed to be endocrine disrupting to get thru the loophole.

Initially Denmark, France and Sweden complained of the high burden of proof in the commission’s proposal but France’s newly elected president Emmanuel Macron voted through the criteria despite outlining his concerns before the election. But according to Chemsec in a press release from the French Ministry of Ecology it said that in return for its vote France got the Commission to commit to a number of actions against EDCs. These include an EU-wide strategy for toys, cosmetics and food packaging, the immediate implementation of the new criteria to substances currently being re-assessed, and an additional 50 million euros for EDC research. In addition, France promised even more activities at national level.

Twenty-one member states voted in favour of the criteria, with the Czech Republic, Denmark and Sweden voting against. Hungary, Latvia, Poland and disappointedly but not surprisingly the UK abstained.

The EDC Free Europe Campaign is now calling on the European Parliament to reject these ineffectual criteria and to properly protect us from these harmful chemicals. The Alliance for Cancer  Prevention is so very disappointed by this lack of care by the EC which will see hundreds more suffer and die from largely preventable illnesses and diseases such as cancer due to EDC exposure. Especially after the many years of campaigning and the considerable scientific evidence weighted on the side of stronger criteria. This decision will have crucial implications for the future health of our children and the wider environment according to ChemTrust.

While individual EU countries can decide the health and wellbeing of their citizens are worth protecting and implement effective criteria –it’s unlikely we will see such progressive and prevention public health legislation from the UK government.

Press release from EDC Free Europe.

UK groups join with Health Care Without Harm to raise concerns about Endocrine Disrupting Chemicals in Medical Devices.

 

The Alliance joined with other UK charities and the European organsiation Health Care Without Harm in writing a letter to the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, Elizabeth Truss MP.

The letter outlines concerns about the discussions on the proposed Medical Devices Regulation in successive meetings of the Council Working Party on Pharmaceuticals and Medical Devices. The discussions seek to reach agreement between the position of the Council and the European Parliament (EP) with a view to reaching an agreement by 30th June, still under the auspices of the Dutch Presidency.

One of the outstanding issues, where an agreement must be reached with the EP, appears to be the provision on the phasing-out of Carcinogenic, Mutagenic and Reprotoxic substances (CMRs) and Endocrine Disrupting Chemicals (EDCs) contained in medical devices. The letter draws attention to the amendment 355 to the proposed Medical Devices Regulation that was adopted by the European Parliament in April 2014. This amendment seeks to phase out CMRs and EDCs contained in medical devices when safer alternatives are available, technically feasible, and do not compromise the safety of patients. As you know, there is a growing scientific consensus about the harmful effects of these hazardous chemicals on human health.

To us, the proposed amendment has a clear merit: it meets the substitution objectives of REACH in ensuring that toxic substances are replaced by safer alternatives. It additionally provides for a derogation period that would allow the medical device industry to substitute CMRs and EDCs with safer alternatives. The groups want to join with HCWH in reiterating the call to the Council in particular to rise to the occasion in reaching an agreement that complies with the objectives of REACH, thus ensuring that in the future toxic substances are indeed replaced by safer alternatives.

It is worth pointing out that DEHP, an EDC, will be phased out under REACH and it would therefore seem inconsistent and confusing to allow continued exposure to DEHP through medical devices.

The letter can be seen here.

A recent report from HCWH on Non-Toxic Healthcare and alternatives to the EDCs Phthalates and Bisphenol A used in certain medical devices can be accessed here.

The full Healt Care Without Hram infogram can be viewed here.

 

 

New Resource: Cancer Hazards

A new resource on cancer and hazards available in the form of a continually-updated, annotated bibliography of occupational cancer research. The resource is produced by  Hazards, the Alliance for Cancer Prevention and the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC).

 

 

Glyphosate – Need for a robust and credible scientific assessment of carcinogenicity

A letter signed by the Alliance and 46 environmental, health and cancer orgs as well as unions, scientists and doctors has been sent to the European Commissioner for Health and Food Safety, Mr. Vytenis Andriukaitis. It calls on the Commission to ban glyphosate where the public and workes are most exposed, until a full scientific assessment has been completed.

The letter comes before the EU’s food safety authority (EFSA) publishes a key report on the health and environmental risks associated with the world’s most used herbicide glyphosate on the 12th of November. Based on the report, the European Commission will conclude whether glyphosate which the WHO recently classified as a probable cause of cancer  should still be used in the EU.

In addition to EFSA, the EU’s chemicals’ agency (ECHA) has also been tasked to review the health risks of glyphosate. But its report is unlikely to be released before 2017, by which time the EU will have already ruled on the use of the herbicide.

Following an earlier extension for its legal use by three and a half years, the EU’s approval of glyphosate runs out at the end of 2015. The Commission has proposed a further six-month extension to grant EFSA more time for its assessment.

In March 2015, the WHO’s Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) classified glyphosate as a “probable carcinogen”. A similar classification by the EU would mean it could no longer be used.

EFSA’s assessment and its recommendation to the Commission (to re-authorise or to ban) will be heavily influenced by a draft risk assessment report carried out by the German Federal Institute for Risk Assessment (BfR). You can find a leak of the report on cancer risks here. This draft report admits there is evidence of harm, but nonetheless concludes that glyphosate is not a carcinogen. We dispute this conclusion, which puts BfR at odds with IARC, and criticise BfR’s reliance on unpublished studies submitted by glyphosate producers.

In the absence of scientific consensus that glyphosate is not harmful, the Commission has a responsibility to protect the public and workers from exposure to harm. As long as different scientific bodies come to different conclusions about the carcinogenic nature of glyphosate it is the obligation of the European Commission to invoke the precautionary principle. Almost 1.5 million citizens are calling on the EU’s decision makers to apply that principle to glyphosate use.

Monsanto’s Roundup is one of the most commonly known brands that contain glyphosate. You can find glyphosate products in any garden centre in Europe sold top an unsuspecting public.  They are widely used in farming, forestry, parks, public spaces and private gardens.

In the UK the TUC called for urgent action to prevent any workers coming into contact with glyphosate adding that it can also cause irritation and dermatitis and if swallowed may cause corrosion of the throat and can lead to kidney or liver failure. In May this year the GMB Union issued a Safety Matters briefing for workers on glyphosate urging employers to adapt the precautionary principle and substitute the herbicide  immediately while completing a COSHH assessment. The GMB stress this is a severe health risk for workers.

Glyphosate also ends up in our food, in 2014 PAN UK found that 60% of bread tested in the UK contained the most frequently used weedkiller, glyphosate. Worringly it can find its way into our bodies through menstrual and medical products. A recent Argentinian study shockingly discovered 85% of tampons and medical cotton gauze tested contained glyphosate residues.

The Alliance for Cancer Prevention supports all action to get rid of this toxic herbicide, bad for workers, bad for consumers and bad for our environment, why the delay?

Link to Greenpeace website.

To help our towns and cities become pesticide free please sign the petition from Pesticide Action Network UK.

Alliance joins with EU organisations to call for serious discussion on the future of Glyphosate in the EU

In a follow up to a letter sent in April to the European Commissioner for Health and Food Safety Mr. Vytenis Andriukaitis, calling for the suspension of Glyphosate for public and professional use as a precautionary measure. The alliance has signed a subsequent letter initiated by Greenpeace and signed by Friends of the Earth Europe, the Health and Environment Alliance, and Pesticide Action Network Europe. The letter addresses our concerns regarding the scope of the EU Commission’s request to European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) regarding the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) findings on glyphosate.

Glyphosate is used in a large number of weedkillers and is the most commonly used weedkiller in the world. It is sold by the original manufacturer, Monsanto, as Roundup, although it is found in other brands such as Bayer, Rosate and Rodeo. It is also used in a lot of supermarket and garden centre own-brands.

Workers face particular risk due to frequent exposure. No workers should be put at risk of exposure to any substance that can lead to cancer. All substances that could be hazardous to health are covered by the Control of Substances Hazardous to Health Regulations 2002 (COSHH). These state that the employer must try to prevent exposure totally. If that is not possible they should control it so the risk of harm is ‘as low as is reasonably practicable’

Glyphosate is used widely in parks, gardens footpaths, railway line and in forestry in the UK. There is no requirement to notify the general public of spraying. The only evidence of spraying maybe dry and browning vegetation. This is real health issue to people and animals using public parks. Small children are especially at risk due to their close contact with the ground and their frequence hand to mouth gestures. Dogs are also at risk due to sniffing and eating grasses.

EFSA has been charged with doing a peer review of the findings by IARC on the potential carcinogenicity of glyphosate or glyphosate-containing plant protection products. The Commission requested EFSA to ‘ “investigate the carcinogenic potential of glyphosate raised by IARC” and whether an amendment to the original proposal in regard to the classification of glyphosate is neccesary.

The letter outlines our concerns that the scope of the request is too narrow and that establishing a ‘firm causality’ would be difficult when IARC itself classified glyphosate as “probably carcinogenic to humans” (Class 2A), not as “carcinogenic to humans” (Class 1). It has found “limited evidence of carcinogenicity in humans” as well as “sufficient evidence of carcinogenicity in experimental animals”, but not “sufficient evidence of carcinogenicity in humans”. We therefore believe that it is unrealistic to expect that EFSA will establish “a firm causality” between human exposure and the development of cancer when IARC did not.

The letter asks the Commission to revise the EFSA request. The signed letter

The Alliance has also joined 308 other organisations in an appeal calling for a ban on Highly Hazardous Pesticide (HHPs). Decades of experience has shown that, despite numerous ‘safe use’ programs, the ’safe use’ of highly hazardous pesticides (HHPs) is not possible.

People, farm animals, wildlife and the environment continue to suffer considerable harm from HHPs. After decades of failure which have seen millions of deaths worldwide, new policies are needed to stop pesticide poisonings. A progressive phase out and ban of HHPs, along with new policies for supporting alternatives, can make a change towards a healthy and sustainable world for all. We call on governments and corporations to take concrete steps towards a progressive ban of HHPs and their substitution with ecosystem-based alternatives.

Please sign the petition here.

The Trade Unions Congress is calling for union safety reps to ensure workers are not exposed to a cancer-causing pesticide. No workers should be put at risk of exposure to any substance that can lead to cancer. A new briefing says because of the unquestionable risks posed by glyphosate, which can also cause short- and long-term skin, eye and respiratory problems and serious liver and kidney damage, it is “necessary to try to prevent any workers coming into contact with glyphosate.”

A study in New York found evidence of cancer link with park spraying. But advice to spray yet more chemicals to clean children’s hands means more exposure to susbtances like antibacterials.

To find out how one company has control of so much of the worlds food supply check out this great video from The Undercurrent.

The best solution – avoid pesticide usage altogether.

American Public Health Association Passes Groundbreaking Resolution on Breast Cancer and Occupation

APHA

The American Public Health Association has passed a groundbreaking resolution on breast cancer and occupation calling on the U.S. Surgeon General to declare the association between known classes of chemicals including endocrine disrupting chemicals (EDCs) and breast cancer while acknowledging that women working with these chemicals are particularly at risk. The declaration need to emphasis the precautionary principle and highlight the importance of identifying workplace and other environmental hazards that contribute to elevated breast cancer rates. The resolution was authored by Dr. James Brophy, Dr. Margaret Keith, and Dorothy Wigmore from Worksafe, Inc.

Last year, Dr Keith and Dr Brophy from the University of Windsor, Ontario and Prof Andrew Watterson from the University of Stirling (all members of the OEHRG group at Stirling University) won an international award for their work on occupational breast cancer with two studies looking at women’s breast cancer risk in specific workplaces.

The APHA resolution calls on the Department of Health and Human Services, the National Cancer Institute, the National Institutes for Health, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH), the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) and other relevant federal agencies to:

  • Focus more on the etiologic and mechanistic pathways of suspect chemicals and breast cancer and chemicals identified as, or suspected of being, linked to breast cancer, particularly EDCs and mammary carcinogens.
  • Identify and investigate the causes of breast cancer in groups of workers in suspect sectors and workplaces or those who work with known and suspected chemicals.
  • Initiate special emphasis hazard surveillance programs to identify sectors and workplaces where breast cancer-linked hazards are present.
  • All initiatives need to incorporate green chemistry, toxics use reduction and informed substitution principles in their purchasing practices, to contribute to prevention and reduction of breast cancer in a life cycle approach that recognizes the power of purchasers.

Breast cancer is the most frequent cancer diagnosis among women in industrialised countries, and rates in North America and Western Europe are among the highest in the world. But despite decades of working womens contribution to the workforce; women’s occupational health hazards continue to be mostly invisible, studied inadequately and infrequently.

This historic resolution should pave the way for urgent public health action world wide. We look forward to hearing the reactions  from our own public and occupational health agencies. What do we need to do to have similar action on occupational and environmental breast cancer here? When are we going to see the elimination of endocrine disrupting chemicals from our workplaces?

The Alliance for Cancer Prevention has been calling for a new Cancer Action Plan which specifically addresses environmental and occupational risk factors  for breast and other cancers with targeted actions for those risk factors and specifically allocated funding. The plan needs to encompass social, economic and gender inequalities and would need to be rolled out across England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland taking into account all countries specific cancer plans and strategies.

The APHA deserves much credit for backing this resolution and following up on the reports and statements referenced in the resolution which want to see breast cancer stopped before it starts.

A copy of the resolution can be downloaded here.