Bad Blood?

Posted on 19 October 2004

WWF reveals that Ministers are contaminated with an average of at least 37 chemicals.
Gland, Switerland/Brussels, Belgium. Ministers from 13 European Union countries are contaminated with dozens of industrial chemicals according to results of blood tests released today. Fourteen Environment and Health Ministers (1) tested by WWF in June 2004 have a total of 55 industrial chemicals in their blood.
 
The chemicals found in the Ministers include those used in fire-resistant sofas, non-stick pans, grease proof-pizza boxes, flexible PVC, fragrances and pesticides. Some were banned decades ago though many are still in use today.
 
"The Ministers are all contaminated with industrial chemicals whose effects are largely unknown" said Karl Wagner, Director of WWF’s DetoX Campaign. "It is hard to believe that legislators have been willing to allow this uncontrolled experiment to continue for so many years."
 
Fifty five chemicals were found in the Ministers's blood – fifty three per cent of the 103 chemicals (2) tested. The Ministers had an average of thirty seven chemicals in their blood: the highest number of chemicals found in any one Minister was forty three and the lowest was thirty three. Twenty five of the same chemicals were found in all the Ministers: one flame retardant, two pesticides, and twenty two PCBs.
 
Chemical contamination is a threat to wildlife and people. The chemicals found in Ministers also contaminate polar bears, dolphins, birds of prey and many other species even in the most remote environments. Although 86% of the 2500 chemicals used in large quantities do not have enough safety information publicly available to do a basic safety assessment, research increasingly links chemicals to cancers, allergies, reproductive problems and defects in children’s development.
 
Many of the chemicals found in the Ministers are persistent, bio-accumulative and capable of disrupting the hormone systems of wildlife and people. The ability of some chemicals to interfere with our hormones has only relatively recently been discovered by scientists and even more recently acknowledged by the chemical industry. 
 
The tests are one of WWF’s contributions to the debate within the European Union on REACH – the proposed new chemical law that should lead to the identification and phasing out of the most harmful chemicals.
 
"The chemical industry argues, apparently seriously, that it cannot afford to find out if its products are dangerous" said Karl Wagner. "WWF says that for the sake of all life on our planet – including our own – we cannot afford not to find out." 
 
Tests were also carried out on 11 other individuals including Jacqueline McGlade, the Director of the European Environment Agency. These results are not included in the report on the Ministers’ results although they are very similar. 
 

For further information:
Julian Scola,
Tel: +32 2 743 8806
E-mail: jscola@wwfepo.org 
 

Notes to editors 

1. The 14 Ministers tested are the following:
• Ms Constantina Akkelidou - Cyprus - Minister of Health
• Mr Libor Ambrozek - Czech Republic - Minister of Environment
• Mr Hans Christian Schmidt - Denmark - Minister of Environment (at time of test)
• Mr Olavi Tammemäe - Estonia - Environment vice-minister 
•Mr Jan-Erik Enestam - Finland - Minister of Environment
•Mr Serge Lepeltier - France - Minister of Environment
•Dr Miklós Persányi - Hungary - Minister of Environment
•Mr Mihaly Kokeny - Hungary - Minister of Health
•Mr Roberto Tortoli - Italy - Environment vice-minister
•Mr Juozas Olekas - Lithuania - Minister of Health
•Mr Laszlo Miklos - Slovakia - Minister of Environment
•Ms Christina Narbona - Spain - Minister of Environment
•Mrs Lena Sommestad - Sweden - Minister of Environment
•Mr Alun Michael - UK - Minister of Environment
 
* Picture of Ms Akkelidou is not available and picture of Mr Lepeltier is only available in low resoltuion

2. The 103 chemicals come from 7 groups
•Brominated flame retardants -- some, but not all, of which have been recently banned in the EU
•Phthalates -- banned from some children's toys but otherwise still widely used
•Pefluorinated chemicals -- widely used in water or grease-resistant coatings for pizza and french-fry boxes, clothes, carpets and even non-stick pans
•PCBS -- banned in Europe in the 1970's
•Organo-chlorine pesticides -- many of which were banned in Europe over 20 years ago, including DDT
•Synthetic musks - widely used in perfumes, aftershaves, soaps and personal care products
•Anti-bacterials – used in many household products from toothpaste, to washing up liquid and even plastic kitchenware such as chopping boards. 

3. TV footage of the Ministers being tested is available from Julian Scola tel +32 2 743 8806, jscola@wwfepo.org