Scientists Urge UN to Take Action on Hormone-Disrupting Chemicals in Consumer Products and Pesticides
Today, a group of influential scientists called for swift action by the United Nations system to prevent harm from a wide variety of synthetic chemicals in consumer products and pesticides that play a role in increased incidences of reproductive diseases, cancer, obesity and type-2 diabetes worldwide. The scientists include authors of a recent report by the World Health Organization (WHO) and the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP), which underlines the urgent need for global action to address the dangers of hormone or endocrine disrupting chemicals (EDCs).
The scientists’ statement is part of a growing international effort to identify and control the harmful effects of chemicals that damage hormonal (endocrine) systems in humans and wildlife that is supported by more than 100 countries engaged in a process to develop a global plan for the safe management of chemicals.
“Exposure to EDCs during fetal development and puberty plays a role in the increased incidences of reproductive disease, endocrine-related cancers, behavioral and learning problems including ADHD, infections, asthma and perhaps obesity and diabetes in humans,” said William F. Young, Jr., MD, president of The Endocrine Society, the most active organization devoted to research on hormones and the clinical practice of endocrinology. The society’s 2009 Scientific Statement on EDCs was the first in-depth scientific report to draw attention to the unique properties of these chemicals, and the society and its members remain active in advancing endocrine science and the knowledge of how EDCs affect health.
EDCs are commonly found in food and food containers, plastic products, furniture, toys, carpeting, building materials and cosmetics. EDCs include chemicals such as bisphenol A (water bottles, can linings), certain phthalates (various plastic products and cosmetics) and pesticides such as chlorpyrifos (used on a wide variety of food crops). They are often released from the products that contain them and enter the bodies of humans and wildlife through dust or through the food chain. Tests show the presence of dozens of chemicals with hormone disrupting properties in people, including developing children. Manufacturers of suspected EDCs include some of the world’s largest chemical manufacturers, such as Exxon Mobil, Dow, DuPont, BASF, Monsanto, Eastman Chemical and others.
In their letter addressed to UNEP, WHO, Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) and the Strategic Approach to International Chemicals Management (SAICM), the scientists recommended a number of key principles, supported by current scientific research, to guide upcoming efforts in this area.
- A clear definition of EDCs. Endocrine disrupting chemicals are chemicals, or chemical mixtures, that interfere with normal hormone action.
- Vulnerability of living organisms. Hormones and their signaling pathways are critical for normal functioning in all vertebrates and invertebrates.
- EDCs effects occur at low doses. Many EDC effects occur at low doses even when high dose effects are not apparent.
- EDCs can affect future generations and timing of exposure is key. The most sensitive period is during periods of development, from the fetal and post-natal periods, which can extend into infancy and childhood for some tissues.
- Exposure to EDC mixtures may be different than exposure to single substances. Humans and animals are exposed to complex mixtures of hundreds of EDCs.
- The Precautionary Principle is key. Decision-making should err on the side of precaution.
“EDCs present unacceptable risks to human health and the environment, and that is why more than 100 governments reached consensus agreement that action is needed,” said Olga Speranskaya, co-chair, International POPs Elimination Network. “In our letter, we outline the most important principles for actions on EDCs. We urge the international agencies to utilize these principles as the basis for moving forward as quickly as possible.”
A recent report from WHO and UNEP, State of the Science of Endocrine Disrupting Chemicals, 2012, said that recent increases in the incidence of endocrine-related diseases in people and wildlife cannot be explained by genetics alone and that EDCs are a “global threat that needs to be resolved.” A recent editorial in Environmental Health Perspectives, a leading, peer-reviewed journal, identified EDCs as a global problem requiring global solutions. And more than 100 countries participating in an international process for implementing a global safe chemicals management plan (SAICM) reached consensus agreement that EDCs are an emerging issue requiring capacity building and awareness-raising and the translation of research results into control actions.
Visit EcoWatch’s BIODIVERSITY page for more related news on this topic.
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Jean-Marc Neveu and Olivier Civil never expected to find themselves battling against disposable mask pollution.
When they founded their recycling start-up Plaxtil in 2017, it was textile waste they set their sights on. The project developed a process that turned fabrics into a new recyclable material they describe as "ecological plastic."
Mounting Piles of Waste<p>It is not only the streets of Chatellerault where pandemic pollution is piling-up, but also the world's beaches and oceans. Once there, they can take up to 450 years to degrade and disappear.</p><p>Esther Röling, co-organizer of the annual Adventure Clean Up Challenge held on Hong Kong Island, has seen this waste firsthand. In October the sports challenge pitted teams against one another in a competition to remove trash from 13 hard-to-reach coastal areas around the city.</p><p>They find tons of both disposable and reusable masks, said Röling. "You wonder how it ended up there. Was it just thrown on the ground? Or was it in a garbage bag that broke open?"</p><p>Almost 10,000 kilometers away in Antibes on the sunny French Riviera, it's a similar picture. For the past few months, divers and clean-up volunteers working with an ocean clean-up non-profit called Operation Mer Propre have been collecting an increasing number of masks found on land and in the sea.</p><p>"Since the beginning of the lockdown when we started to count, we've reached 800, 900, [and now in total] 1000 masks," said co-founder Joko Peltier. </p><p>According to <a href="https://unctad.org/news/growing-plastic-pollution-wake-covid-19-how-trade-policy-can-help" target="_blank">UN estimates</a>, up to 75% of all coronavirus-related plastic could end up as waste in oceans and landfills.</p>
The Limits of Recycling<p>Yet not all are convinced the recycling of this waste is possible on a global scale. </p><p>"What those citizen groups are doing is really beneficial but once they collect it, it should just go to a landfill or an incinerator. They shouldn't necessarily expect it to get recycled," said Jonathan Krones, an industrial ecologist and visiting assistant professor of environmental studies at Boston College.</p><p>That's because mask recycling programs like Plaxtil are few and far between and most don't have the benefit of a readily adaptable production process. </p><p>Even in countries with solid recycling infrastructure, he says, the system is designed to separate out specific types of waste like bottles or cardboard.</p><p>"I imagine that it would be technically feasible to develop a separation process to filter out masks, but there simply aren't enough of them to make that economical," he said.</p><p>Collection is a big hurdle, he adds. Since each mask only weighs a fraction of a gram and they're scattered on roads or mixed with other trash, it is difficult and costly. </p><p>"You need a lot of raw material of the right quality to make investing in the recycling technology and the recycling system worthwhile," he said.<span></span><br></p>
Hemp, Sugar Cane and Sustainable Alternatives<p>Some projects are instead addressing the material used to make masks.</p><p>French company Geochanvre have created a mask made primarily from hemp, while in Australia, researchers at the Queensland University of Technology are experimenting with a disposable product made from agricultural waste. </p><p>Biodegradable options are exciting alternatives to reduce the fossil fuels needed for the creation of plastic-based masks, said Krones, but they don't absolve the wearer from the responsibility of what happens afterwards. </p><p>Bio-based masks often need their own composing solutions, he explains, because in landfill they can produce high amounts of the greenhouse gas methane when anaerobic bacteria feeds on the organic material. Methane is known to be significantly more potent than carbon dioxide.</p><p>"I think as long as we have in our mind that we want to have disposability, we're going to have to wrestle with a variety of different sorts of environmental tradeoffs," he said, adding that reusable, fabric masks are the best option available to most people.</p><p>Precimask is developing a clear face covering with an optional visor made from hard plastic, designed to be long-lasting.<br></p><p>Air enters either side of the cheeks through a technology normally found in pool filters and car exhaust systems, said company spokeswoman Juliette Chambet.</p><p>"We wanted to make ceramic-based filters that would be washable and cleanable, which would allow them to be reused as many times as desired without having to buy a new consumable or produce waste," she said. </p><p>Ultimately, encouraging mask wearers to think about the entire lifecycle of a mask is key, explains Neveu. </p><p>"We want people who put on the masks to realize that they are also responsible for the waste, he said. "It's not inevitable that this [pandemic] will become an environmental catastrophe.</p><p><em>Reposted with permission from </em><em><a href="https://www.dw.com/en/covid-19-recycling-pollution-trash-pandemic/a-55707817" target="_blank">Deutsche Welle</a>.</em><a href="https://www.ecowatch.com/r/entryeditor/2649032193#/" target="_self"></a></p>
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