The Alliance for Cancer prevention joined with ChemTrust, Breast Cancer UK, WEN, Hazards Campaign, PAN UK< the Cancer Prevention and Education Society, From Pink to Prevention and others to call for clarification on the responsibilities of the National Institute for Health Protection (NIHP) with regards to the regulation of harmful chemicals and their impact on public health.
Given the global deaths from exposure to such chemicals is estimated to be 1.6 million, we believe urgent action is needed to address the environmental and occupational risk factors. This includes banning or restricting chemicals that are carcinogens, mutagens, toxic to reproduction, immunotoxic, neurotoxic and/or disruptive to the endocrine system (EDCs).
Risk from harmful chemicals is often exacerbated when exposure occurs to especially vulnerable groups including infants, children and pregnant women. According to the UN’s Global Chemicals Outlook, harmful chemicals such as Endocrine Disrupting Chemicals (EDCs) are now “ubiquitous in humans and the environment”. We ingest them through food and drink, inhale them in the air we breathe and absorb them through our skin. Over 1400 compounds are known or suspected EDCs and across Europe, the annual cost of EDC exposure and the consequent health impacts, is estimated at between €109-€157 billion.
Such chemicals, even at low concentrations, can trigger chemical reactions in the body that increase the chances of suffering from chronic and lethal diseases. Examples include hormone-dependent cancers, such as breast and prostate cancers, obesity, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, reproductive problems, developmental effects, and neuro-behavioural difficulties. Throughout our daily lives we are exposed to a cocktail of chemicals including bisphenols in plastics, phthalates in personal care products, flame retardants in furniture and mattresses, per and polyfluoroalkyl substances in food packaging and toxic pesticides.
Accordingly, we call for the DofH to:
• Acknowledge formally the public health risks of routine exposure to low levels of carcinogenic and other chemicals including EDCs used in everyday products and recognise them as potential risk factors for cancer and other public health conditions.
• Give the new NIHP explicit responsibilities to monitor, research and propose appropriate restrictions on specific groups of harmful chemicals.
• Adopt a cross-governmental approach to the management of harmful chemicals, with the NIHP, HSE, DofH and DEFRA working together to support the creation of a non-toxic environment.
• Raise awareness and provide training to Directors of Public Health, Public Health professionals and Clinicians on the risks of public and occupational exposure to harmful chemicals.
• Review and Implement existing legislation on workplace exposures to harmful chemicals.
• Implement, without delay, the recommendations of the Environmental Audit Committee’s report on ‘Toxic Chemicals in Everyday Life’.
Link to the letter.