The EU declares war on endocrine disruptors

I can’t tell you how happy I am that someone outside of my own circle of colleagues is finally addressing endocrine disrupting chemicals as the disease-causing health hazards they are. I just wish it was happening a little closer to home.

If you’ve been my reader for a while, then you’ll recall that I’ve written about endocrine disruptors at length. These toxins are marked by their ability to hijack the hormone systems in mammals, mimicking natural substances like estrogen and wreaking havoc as a result.

And they’re hiding everywhere — in cash register receipts, deodorants, and cleaning supplies, just to name a few. In many cases, continuing to poison the environment even long after their use has been banned.

So why am I bringing them up again today? Well, the European Commission (EC) — the key executive arm of the European Union (EU) — recently drafted a set of criteria that defines exactly what an endocrine disrupting chemical is.

Ultimately, this definition will be legally binding. Which means it will be instrumental in stopping the use of endocrine disrupting chemicals — currently common in the manufacturing of pesticides, cosmetics, food packaging, and even toys — across the entire EU.

The criteria specify that an endocrine disrupting chemical is “any substance or mixture that alters the functions of the endocrine system to cause adverse health effects in an organism, its progeny, or (sub)populations.” Meanwhile, any substance that “has properties that might be expected to lead to endocrine disruption” is to be labeled a “potential” endocrine disrupting chemical.

BOOM. Read it and weep, folks.

These criteria will be front and center in the consideration and approval of the use of any new chemicals. And they will also play a key role in bringing wider restrictions on the use of endocrine disrupting chemicals to the legislative table.

The goal here is to minimize exposure to these harmful chemicals, pure and simple. Once they’re identified, they’ll be pulled from the market — a huge win for the European people any way you slice it.

It’s also worth noting that the European Commission is the first regulatory system in the world to make this kind of move. So you can see why it’s making headlines.

Unfortunately, however, the reactions are not all celebratory.  The Endocrine Society, for one, thinks the criteria just don’t dig deep enough — that they aren’t going to do much to identify the most damaging chemicals currently in use, nor prevent human harm. And confusion over how to apply the criteria will just muddy the waters further.

I’ll be the first one to rain on the parade when I come across watered-down warnings. And I’m glad that the Endocrine Society is on top of this, putting pressure where it’s obviously necessary.

But here in the United States, the FDA has been burying its head in the sand about these dangerous chemicals for decades now. Even when they acknowledge the harm of a certain substance, they certainly don’t treat the problem with the urgency that the Europeans do.

So as an American, I can’t help but give credit where it’s due. However flawed a start this may be, it’s a start nevertheless.

Maybe one day, our own agencies will finally follow suit — and for a change, actually try to protect the health of the people over the health of corporations’ bottom lines.



Davenport, Liam. (2017 July 10). “Endocrine Society queries European draft criteria on disruptors.” Retrieved from: