Toiletry chemicals linked to testicular cancer and male infertility cost EU millions, report says
Nordic Council calls on EU to ban damaging compounds found in household products that cost millions due to their harmful impact on male reproductive health
The hormone-mimicking chemicals used routinely in toiletries, cosmetics, medicines, plastics and pesticides cause hundreds of millions of euros of damage to EU citizens every year, according to the first estimate of their economic impact.
The endocrine disruptor compounds (EDCs) are thought to be particularly harmful to male reproductive health and can cause testicular cancer, infertility, deformation of the penis and undescended testicles.
The new report, from the Nordic Council of Ministers, focuses on the costs of these on health and the ability to work but warns that they “only represent a fraction of the endocrine-related diseases” and does not consider damage to wildlife. Another new study, published in a medical journal, showed an EDC found in anti-perspirants reduced male fertility by 30%.
The Nordic Council, representing the governments of governments of Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway and Sweden, is demanding the European Union speeds up its plan to identify, assess and ban harmful EDCs. Sweden is already taking legal action against the EU over its missed deadlines, which it blamed on lobbying by the European chemical industry.
“I am not happy that taxpayers have to pay for the damage caused by EDCs, while industry saves money by not investigating their chemicals properly,” said Danish environment minister Kirsten Brosbøl on publication of the new report.
Michael Warhurst, of campaign group Chem Trust, said: “Companies should focus on developing and producing products that don’t contain hormone disruptors and other problem chemicals. This will give them a competitive advantage as controls on these chemicals become stricter around the world – and as consumers become more aware of this issue.”
The report, called The Cost of Inaction, uses the extensive health records collected by the Nordic countries to determine the incidence of the male reproductive health problems linked to EDCs and then uses Swedish data to estimate costs. These are extrapolated to the population of the EU’s 28 nations.
The report also assesses the proportion of the health problems attributable to EDCs, with a central estimate of 20%, leading to a conclusion that the male reproductive health problems cost the EU €592m (£470m) a year. The report states: “Minimising exposure to endocrine disruptors will not only remove distress and pain for the persons (and the wildlife) affected, it will also save the society from considerable economic costs.”
The EU, which would be the first authority in the world to regulate EDCs, is currently conducting a public consultation on a scientific method to identify the chemicals, which ends on 16 January. In 2011, the UK and German governments lobbied to EU to restrict the definition of EDCs to only the most potent chemicals, a proposal described as a “loophole” by critics.
Peter Smith, executive director for product stewardship at CEFIC, which represents the European chemical industry, said the Nordic report attribution of health problems to EDCs was “arbitrary”. He said: “The link between exposure to a chemical and an illness has not been shown in many cases. The authors themselves say they have some trouble with causality.”
Smith said the delays to EDC regulation in the EU did not suit the industry. “Nobody is happy with the delays. But we would prefer it to be permanent and right rather than temporary and wrong.” He said case-by-case rigorous assessment was needed and that any precautionary action had to be proportional to the evidence of harm.
However, Professor Andreas Kortenkamp, a human toxicologist at Brunel University London in the UK, said the epidemiological work needed to prove causation is very difficult. For example, he said, analysing links to birth defects would having taken tissue samples from mothers before they gave birth.
“Hard evidence for effects in humans is difficult to demonstrate, though there are some exceptions,” he said. “But there is very good, strong evidence from animal and cell line test systems. The chemical industry only likes to emphasis the first part of that.” He said precaution was the only safe approach and said the Nordic report was good work.
“Industry lobbying has put regulation back by 3-5 years, which was entirely the intention,” said Kortenkamp, who led a 2012 review of EDCs for the EU which found new regulations were needed. “Every year of no regulation means millions of euros to the industry. That is what it is all about.”
In 2012, the World Health Organiation and the UN environment programme published a major report on the state of EDC science, which concluded that communities across the globe were being exposed to EDCs and their associated risks and that urgent research on the health and environmental impacts was needed. Dr Maria Neira, the WHO’s director for public health and environment said at the time: “We all have a responsibility to protect future generations.” Another review in 2012 by the European Environment Agency advised “a precautionary approach to many of these chemicals until their effects are more fully understood.”
Source : The Guardian
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Cancer Report Examines Environmental Hazards
Catherine M. Cooney, a science writer in Washington, DC, has written for Environmental Science & Technology and Chemical Watch.
Citation: Cooney CM 2010. Cancer Report Examines Environmental Hazards. Environ Health Perspect 118:a336-a336. doi:10.1289/ehp.118-a336a
Online: 01 August 2010
In its new report, Reducing Environmental Cancer Risk: What We Can Do Now, the President’s Cancer Panel (PCP) for the first time highlights the contribution of environmental contaminants to the development of cancer.1 The panel also points out the great need for increased research on environmental risk factors. In a letter to the President that prefaces the report, the panel wrote that “the true burden of environmentally induced cancer has been grossly underestimated.”
The PCP was established in 1971 by the National Cancer Act, the first salvo in former President Nixon’s “war on cancer.” The panel annually reports to the president on the activities of the National Cancer Program, which Jennifer Burt, special assistant to the PCP, describes as “anything that has to do with cancer in the United States.” Current panelists are Margaret Kripke of the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center and LaSalle D. Leffall of Howard University College of Medicine, both appointed by George W. Bush; an open third position awaits appointment by the Obama administration, Burt says.
Past PCP reports have focused on the contribution of lifestyle to cancer, but Kripke says those reports were criticized for not reviewing the contribution of environmental exposures. The panel therefore chose to dedicate this report to environmental risk factors. In developing the report, the panel reviewed more than 400 scientific reports and heard testimony from 45 invited experts at four public meetings.
The report outlines research on consumer products, combustion by-products, and agricultural chemicals used in residential and commercial landscaping. It highlights cancer attributable to radiation and points out that military activities and unnecessary medical X rays are sources of exposure that can increase cancer risk, especially among children.
Although 60% of U.S. cancer deaths are attributed to lifestyle factors such as smoking, lack of exercise, and poor diet,2 the factors contributing to the remaining 40% are a mystery, Kripke says. But the panel did not attempt to characterize the percentage of cancers that might be linked to environmental exposures. “We don’t have any real idea of the contribution of environmental factors to human cancer,” Kripke says. The report points out that most cancer research focuses on genetic and molecular mechanisms behind the disease.1
Several environmental scientists were relieved to see the report take such an honest tone about the need for research. “They really point out where we have huge gaps of data,” says Deborah Swackhamer, a professor of environmental chemistry at the University of Minnesota and chair of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s independent Science Advisory Board. “I think the science they used to back up the report is very mainstream,” she adds.
The American Cancer Society (ACS) agrees with 85−90% of the panel’s report, says Otis Brawley, ACS chief medical officer. Yet Brawley and other cancer researchers fear the emphasis on environmental factors may divert the general public from making positive lifestyle changes at a time when an estimated 41% of Americans will develop cancer during their lives and 21% will die of the disease.3 Michael J. Thun, vice president emeritus of epidemiology and surveillance research for the ACS, says, “It would be unfortunate if the effect of this report were to trivialize the importance of other modifiable risk factors that, at present, offer the greatest opportunity in preventing cancer.”4
- 1. Reuben SH. Reducing Environmental Cancer Risk: What We Can Do Now: 2008–2009 Annual Report, President’s Cancer Panel. Bethesda, MD:National Cancer Institute (2010).
- 2. Reuben SH. Promoting Healthy Lifestyles: Policy, Program, and Personal Recommendations for Reducing Cancer Risk: 2006–2007 Annual Report, President’s Cancer Panel. Bethesda, MD:National Cancer Institute.
- 3. Horner JM, et al., eds. SEER Cancer Statistics Review, 1975–2006 [Internet]. Bethesda, MD:National Cancer Institute; based on November 2008 SEER data submission, posted to the SEER Web site, 2009 [cited 2009 Jul 19]. Available: http://seer.cancer.gov/csr/1975_2006/.
- 4. Sampson D. 2010. Cancer and the environment [blog entry]. 6 May 2010. Available: http://acspressroom.wordpress.com/2010/05/06/cancer-and-the-environment/ [accessed 13 July 2010].
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LINK TO REPORT - Reducing Environmental Cancer Risk: What We Can Do Now, the President’s Cancer Panel (PCP)