From: Robina Suwol
Date: 19 May 2003
Remote Name: 188.8.131.52
Wednesday 14 May 2003 The publication of a declaration by over 60 leading independent scientists, calling for measures to reduce exposure to hazardous man-made chemicals, marks the launch of WWF's Chemicals and Health Campaign. We are campaigning in partnership with the National Federation of Women's Institutes (NFWI) and a strategic initiative with The Co-operative Bank.
The draft European Union (EU) chemicals legislation, currently the subject of an
official internet consultation by the European Commission, presents a once in a
lifetime opportunity to ensure a safer future for wildlife and people. However,
WWF and NFWI
are concerned that the draft legislation is weak and will not meet their demands, nor those of the scientists.
WWF and NFWI are calling for very persistent and very bioaccumulative chemicals (vPvBs) and hormone disrupting chemicals (EDCs) to be properly regulated - replaced where safer alternatives exist, or banned where necessary. The scientists have also gone on record to state that for both vPvBs and EDCs, there should be a requirement to use safer alternatives, where available.
Gwynne Lyons, WWF Toxics Science and Policy Advisor said: "It is illogical to permit the continued use of chemicals that can build up in our bodies, or chemicals that can disrupt our hormones when safer alternatives are available. Yet that is exactly what new draft European legislation is seeking to do. It seems that the costs to health are yet again being sidelined, while industry lobbying for 'business as usual' takes centre stage."
Affects of exposure to chemicals WWF's investigative research reveals widespread contamination and mounting fears that chemicals may be linked with rising rates of certain cancers, birth defects and effects on children's immune system. Up to 300 man-made chemicals have been found in humans, and it is believed that most if not all humans are contaminated with persistent industrial chemicals. Wildlife is also affected, including polar bears, seals, peregrine falcons, flounder and beluga whales.
Exposure to chemicals that can be passed from mother to child in the womb and chemicals that can disrupt hormones, are a major worry because there is a broad picture of disturbing trends in many diseases.
For example, hormone-related cancers have increased dramatically in recent years. Data for England and Wales shows that between 1971 and 1997, breast cancer increased by more than 50 per cent and prostate and testicular cancer incidence almost doubled. Although part of this increase may be due to better diagnosis and people living longer, this is unlikely to explain all the increase.
Testicular cancer is a cancer of young men, and scientists are now suggesting that exposures to chemicals in the womb may be linked to birth defects in the genitals of baby boys, as well as low sperm counts and testicular cancer in later life. A study of Scottish men has shown that those born in the 1970s are producing around 20 per cent less sperm than men born in the 1950s, and very low sperm counts have been observed in the youngest group of men studied in Denmark, where 40 per cent of them had subnormal sperm counts.
Something must be done Confirmation of the need to impose better regulatory controls over chemicals comes from data on workplace disease. Each year there are an estimated 6,000 work-related cancer deaths, and 66,000 people suffering from skin diseases, including dermatitis, caused by workplace exposure. Work-related asthma alone will cost the UK at least between £500 and £1,000 million over the next 10 years.
"Unless we tackle the toxic threat now, the future of all our conservation work could be in doubt. We are all part of an uncontrolled global experiment, but with Europe's chemical review, we have a once in a lifetime opportunity to address the threat. A robust
European Chemicals Regulation will not only bring benefits to the chemical industry, but ensure a safer, healthier future for our children and wildlife," said Justin Woolford, WWF's Chemicals and Health Campaign Leader. "There is cause for serious concern and we are raising the alarm, urging supporters to act now and show their disapproval by signing our petition demanding the phase out of hazardous man-made chemicals in favour of safer alternatives." Search WWF-UK news
To find out more visit WWF's Chemicals and Health
Helen Carey, National Chairman of NFWI said: "This research makes alarming reading. The WI has long been concerned about the impact of chemicals and the hidden costs to future generations. We must strive to make certain that those chemicals which have been proven to harm man, wildlife or the environment are phased-out with as little delay as possible. We need to ensure that the chemicals which surround us are safe to use and hold no hidden risks for our children and grandchildren."
Kate Daley, Campaigns Manager of The Co-operative Bank said: "The Co-operative Bank has been concerned with persistent and bio-accumulative chemicals for a number of years and believes that they should be phased out and replaced with safer alternatives. We don't believe it's sensible to prevaricate - further research and testing could take decades. Future generations should have the peace of mind to know that the environment, wildlife, and their bodies are free from a potentially harmful cocktail of contaminants,"