Nearly all EU scientists attacking new restrictions on toxic chemicals have financial ties to chemical industries

Monday, March 31, 2014 by: Rebecca Winters
Tags: endocrine disruptors, chemical industries, conflicts of interest

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(NaturalNews) Following a bid to place tougher EU regulations on chemicals that act as hormone-altering endocrine disruptors, 18 scientists have published an editorial in 14 scientific journals ludicrously criticizing the move to protect consumers from these potentially harmful ingredients.

The comments came in reaction to a leaked Environment Directorate-General draft recommending a precautionary approach that could ultimately lead to an outright ban on some known endocrine disruptors in products sold throughout Europe.

All of the scientists denied that they were influenced by industry, while at the same time they maintained that the European Commission's plan was "scientifically unfounded" and "defying common sense" in addition to calling for the agency to distinguish between the adverse effects of these chemicals and what the human hormonal system can adapt to.

An investigation by Environmental Health News, however, revealed that nearly all - 17 of the 18 toxicology journal editors - have significant ties to the chemical, pharmaceutical, biotechnology and/or pesticide industries.

The authors' backgrounds are littered with industry-funded studies to the tune of hundreds of thousands of dollars. Some of the members include:

  • lead author Daniel Dietrich, who formerly worked as an advisor for an industry organization that lobbies the EU specifically regarding endocrine disruptors and is funded by pesticide, oil and chemical companies;
  • Wolfgang Dekant, who has sat on multiple industry panels and received study funding from pro-industry groups including the Tetrahydrofuran Task Force (tetrahydrofurandiols, by the way, have been shown to disrupt the endocrine system of rats in studies);
  • Gio Batta Gori, Editor-in-Chief of Regulatory Toxicology and Pharmacology, a publication supported by Monsanto, Dow AgroSciences, Coca-Cola and others;
  • Jan Hengstler, lead author of a pro-bispehnol A review that claimed that the chemical posed no health risks even to babies, written with an employee of leading BPA producer Bayer AG;
  • Albert Li, a former Monsanto employee who has been CEO of four biotech companies;
  • and Frans P. Nijkamp, who works with an industry lobby group that tests new chemicals for the pharmaceutical and food industries.

(Read the full list of conflicts of interest here.)

Over one hundred scientists have come forward in multiple rebuttals, stating that the editorial "ignores scientific evidence and well-established principles of chemical risk assessment." Fourteen of those scientists, including endocrine disruptor expert Ake Bergman, recently authored a World Health Organization report calling the chemicals "a global threat that needs to be resolved."

An invisible global threat

Endocrine disruptors have been shown in studies to alter the way in which hormones work in the body and can harm developing fetuses. Xenoestrogens - a common endocrine disruptor class - are man-made compounds known to mimic estrogen in the body and block or bind hormone receptors, impairing the reproductive system as well as the neurological and immune systems. Xenoestrogens include chemicals found in many hygiene products, such as parabens and phthalates (plasticizers), polycarbonate plastic ingredient bisphenol A, some food preservatives such as BHA and insecticides like atrazine and DDT, among many others. Many everyday items such as plastic food storage containers, shampoos and fabric softeners have all been found to contain these chemicals.

These toxic compounds build up in fat cells, which can lead to early onset puberty, infertility, endometriosis, reproductive cancers and more. While chronic exposure definitely increases health risks, even low-level exposure can have negative health effects. These chemicals are so ubiquitous in our environment at this point that much of the world's water supply is contaminated with them from a variety of sources - everything from people washing off skin creams in the shower to widespread agrichemical runoff. Unfortunately, most water treatment facilities are not designed to remove these hormonal pollutants.

The EU regulations are an important step toward protecting human health, because it involves the first attempt to regulate endocrine disruptors and thereby limit the types of ingredients that companies can use in the products they sell throughout Europe, which could have a positive global impact. On the other hand, it leaves a lot of potential liability and increase in production costs - giving the industry more than enough reasons to resist change.

When one begins to consider how many potentially harmful endocrine-disrupting chemicals that the average person (or growing child or developing baby) comes into contact with on any given day out of the literally thousands there are, it boggles the mind. Isn't it time some agency somewhere took a stand to at least attempt to protect the public?

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