EU Ministers give blood for chemical check up

Posted on 12 July 2004

Fourteen Environment and Health Ministers from thirteen EU countries have given blood for WWF's ongoing Chemical Check Up.
Brussels, Belgium - Fourteen Environment and Health Ministers from thirteen EU countries have given blood for WWF's ongoing  Chemical Check Up.
 
The aim is to discover the level of contamination by man-made chemicals that do not break down in nature, build up in the bodies of wildlife and people, and are hormone disrupting (can interfere with the body’s hormone system and potentially cause developmental or reproductive defects). 

The purpose is to contribute to the debate about the proposed new EU chemical law — called REACH — which should identify and phase out the most harmful chemicals.
 
WWF’s ‘Chemical Check Up’ will analyse the blood samples for 101 chemicals of five types:

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

• Perfluorinated chemicals — widely used in water- or grease-resistant coatings for pizza and french-fry boxes, clothes, carpets, and even pans

PCBs — banned in Europe in the 1970s

• Organo-chlorine pesticides — many of which were banned in Europe over 20 years ago, including DDT. 

"It is already well established that wildlife, even in remote areas far from sources of pollution such as the Arctic and Antarctic, is contaminated by many chemicals," said Karl Wagner, Director of WWF’s DetoX Campaign. "Testing the human species for a wide range of chemicals has not been done to any large extent. Animals cannot make decisions on laws — but ministers do, and bloodtesting shows them that wildlife and people are in the same boat when it comes to chemicals." 
 
In addition to the 14 EU ministers, WWF-UK and The Cooperative Bank are testing three generations of seven families in the UK. The survey will examine the families’ lifestyles to try and establish the possible ways in which they may be exposed to hazardous chemicals. It will also explore varying chemical concentrations across the generations, as some contaminating chemicals are passed from mother to child. 
 
Earlier this year WWF published the results of similar tests on Members of the European Parliament (MEPs). 
 
Concern about chemical contamination is not limited to WWF, EU ministers and MEPs. A recent poll conducted on behalf of WWF found that 83 per cent of Europeans were concerned about the build up of chemicals in the bodies of people and wildlife.

Results from the current tests are expected in October 2004.
For further information:
Julian Scola
WWF DetoX Campaign
Tel: +32 2 743 8806 

Notes:

Participants
Ministers who have given blood are:
• Serge Lepeltier (France)
• Cristina Narbona (Spain)
• Alun Michael (UK)
• Roberto Tortoli (Italy)
• Dr Miklos Persanyi (Hungary)
• Mihaly Kokeny (Hungary)
• Libor Ambrozek (Czech Republic)
• Lena Sommestad (Sweden)
• Laszlo Miklos (Slovakia)
• Hans Christian Schmidt (Denmark)
• Jan-Erik Enestam (Finland)
• Olavi Tammemäe (Estonia)
• Juozas Olekas (Lithuania)
• Constantina Akkelidou (Cyprus)

Also taking part are Jacqueline McGlade, Head of the European Environment Agency, a number of celebrities from Poland, and senior representatives of WWF France, Spain, Poland, and Hungary.

EU chemicals legislation
REACH (Registration, Evaluation and Authorisation of Chemicals) is a draft EU law that should lead to the identification and phasing out of the most harmful chemicals. If it becomes law it will be enforced in all countries in the European Union.
 
Under the law, chemical producers would be obliged to send a registration dossier containing safety data to a central chemicals agency for all chemicals produced in quantities above one tonne a year. Less information is required the lower the tonnage of chemicals produced, with very basic information required on 1–10 tonne chemicals. Experts would then evaluate the safety data for higher-volume chemicals and other chemicals of concern.

Chemicals of very high concern would be phased out, and replaced by safer alternatives, unless industry can show ‘adequate control’ of the risk from their use or that their ‘socio-economic’ value outweighed the risks.

Chemicals of 'very high concern' are: carcinogens; mutagens; reproductive toxins; persistent, bio-accumulative and toxic; very persistent and very bio-accumulative; of similar concern, e.g endocrine (hormone) disrupters. 
 
However, WWF does not think that the draft law is tough enough. WWF's DetoX campaign is working to ensure that a strengthened REACH is adopted that ensures that chemicals of very high concern are phased out except where use is important to society and there is no safer alternative. 

Spanish Environment Minister Cristina Narbona taking part in WWF's Chemical Check Up.
© WWF / Isaac Vega
French Environment Minister Serge Lepeltier giving a blood sample with Daniel Richard, President of WWF-France.
© WWF-France
Hungarian Envionment Minister Miklos Persanyi giving blood for WWF's Chemical Check Up.
© WWF-Hungary / Peter Rakosi