featured image

Endocrine disrupting chemicals

Endocrine Disrupting Chemicals (EDCs) are chemicals that interfere with hormones in humans and other animals. The hormone system controls main events in life such as growth, metabolism, and reproduction. When the system is disturbed, it can cause a wide range of health disorders including cancers, type 2 diabetes, infertility, and cognitive disorders.

The costs for society from these health issues have been estimated several times. In 2015 the costs for EDC exposure in Europe were estimated to account for 1,28% of the gross domestic product (GDP).

ChemSec has evaluated and added EDC substances to the SIN List on two occasions. There are over 100 substances with endocrine disrupting properties, as well as other properties, on the list, but only 32 substances have been added based solely on their endocrine-disrupting mode of action. These chemicals are specifically described in the 2015 ChemSec report The 32 to leave behind. Since then, much attention has been brought to these chemicals, both political and corporate.

EDCs have been high on the political agenda for many years. But the process to agree on criteria for identification of EDCs has been long and paved with controversies and lawsuits. However, in recent years, there has been an informal agreement to use the definition for EDCs set by the WHO. This definition states that “an endocrine disruptor is an exogenous substance or mixture that alters function(s) of the endocrine system and consequently causes adverse health effects in an intact organism, or its progeny, or (sub)populations.”

The recently adopted criteria in the EU for pesticides and biocides build on this definition. For the REACH regulation, there are (still) no specific criteria in place. Instead, EDCs are identified on a case-by-case basis if they also fulfil the criteria of being Substances of Very High Concern (SVHCs) according to REACH.

This is also how EDCs have been identified for the SIN List. In 2014, ChemSec hired the scientific consultancy The Endocrine Disrupting Exchange to summarise and evaluate all available peer-reviewed scientific data on endocrine disruption for a number of chemicals. After discussions internally and with more external experts, ChemSec, in the end, decided which of the chemicals to place on the SIN List.

In lack of official lists to identify EDCs, the SIN List EDCs have gained much interest. The recognition by UNEP in a report from 2018, stating “the EU REACH SVHC List, the SIN List and the assessment by the Danish Centre on Endocrine Disruptors are the most robust initiatives of those found in identifying EDCs and potential EDCs”, is proof of this.

As stated above, there are 32 substances that have been placed on the SIN List solely because of their ED properties, these are the chemicals listed below.