The JRC has compiled the results of three recent surveys aimed at gaining the views and experiences of citizens, stakeholders and companies related to endocrine disruptors.
The surveys probed concerns about the potential health and environmental effects of endocrine disrupting chemicals, solicited views on the ways in which these chemicals are assessed and regulated within the EU, and explored the social and economic consequences of regulatory action.
The findings will contribute to the Commission’s assessment of the EU chemicals legislation in the context of a Fitness Check.
Endocrine disruptors are chemical substances that can alter the functioning of the hormonal system and negatively affect the health of humans or animals. Significant progress in understanding and regulating endocrine disruptors has been made over the past 20 years, when the EU first responded with its Community Strategy for endocrine disruptors. The need to tackle endocrine disruptors is highlighted in the Commission’s current priorities through the European Green Deal.
While regulatory measures have allowed protective action to be taken against endocrine disruptors, stakeholders have questioned whether the EU legal framework remains fit for purpose. To address these concerns, in 2019 the Commission launched a cross-cutting Fitness Check on endocrine disruptors.
The main aims of the Fitness Check are to assess whether the EU chemicals legislation is consistent and effective in protecting human health and the environment by minimising exposure to endocrine disruptors. Additional aims are to assess the efficiency, societal relevance and EU added-value of the legislation.
The Fitness Check is being carried out and led by the JRC, with input from other Commission services. An important element of the Fitness Check is a consultation strategy aimed at citizens, stakeholders and companies.
The public consultation report provides a factual overview of the 474 responses received over a twelve-week period from 16/12/2019 to 09/03/2020. The survey, which was translated into all official EU languages, was designed to gain the perspective of the citizen, rather than stakeholders or companies, who were targeted via separate surveys. In total, 431 of the 474 responses (91%) came from citizens.
A majority of citizens felt informed about endocrine disruptors and considered that their effects on health and wildlife, while poorly understood, do represent a concern. Similarly, a majority felt informed about the regulation of endocrine disruptors, but do not feel that the current regulatory framework is sufficiently protective.
A majority of respondents also expressed the view that the EU should have the same approach or more consistent approach for both identifying and managing the risks of exposure to endocrine disruptors.
Opinions were divided on whether animal testing is minimised in the assessment process. Similarly, there were mixed views on whether the cost of regulatory action is proportionate to the benefits accrued for human health, wildlife and the economy.
In general, the respondents considered that EU laws on endocrine disruptors are relevant to societal concerns, and that regulatory action should be taken at the EU level.
The stakeholder consultation report provides a factual overview of the 183 responses received over an eight-week period from 06/12/19 to 31/01/20. The respondents were businesses, public authorities, academics, research organisations, and civil society organisations.
The report shows that a large majority (93%) of the respondents considered that the absence of harmonised criteria for identifying endocrine disruptors across sectors is problematic. A smaller majority (53%) considered that this harmonisation should be achieved by introducing an endocrine disruptor category under the classification and labelling legislation. Around three quarters said they were aware of inconsistencies, gaps or overlaps in the regulatory framework, and a similar proportion were aware of inadequacies in the availability of regulatory test methods. A large majority (88%) reported an increase in costs to comply with EU laws on endocrine disruptors.
The report also gives a detailed breakdown of stakeholder views on the effectiveness of legislation in specific sectors (REACH, cosmetics, biocides, plant protection products). This includes the perceived effectiveness in protecting people and wildlife, improving the functioning of the Single Market, enhancing competitiveness and innovation, and promoting alternatives to animal testing. Opinions were typically divided on these issues. However, in relation to exposure to chemical mixtures, there was a tendency to consider the regulatory framework as insufficiently protective.
The answers to additional questions confirmed that a majority of respondents consider the objectives of the regulatory framework to be relevant in addressing health and environmental concerns. Moreover, the prevailing view was that regulatory actions should be taken at the EU rather than Member State level.
An additional survey, targeting micro, small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), was conducted through the Enterprise Europe Network and was open from 01/02/2020 to 09/03/2020.
This included questions inviting SMEs to:
- identify any inconsistencies in the legal framework for endocrine disruptors and their consequences for small companies
- provide views on the effectiveness and efficiency of procedures for the assessment and risk management of endocrine disruptors
- suggest improvements
SMEs were also asked to provide quantitative data, wherever possible, on the impacts of complying with legal provisions on endocrine disruptors (in particular, additional costs and competitiveness).
Responses were received from 70 SMEs. In general, opinion was divided, or not expressed, across a range of questions. However, many respondents considered the regulatory process to identify and control chemicals with endocrine disrupting properties to be effective in protecting people and wildlife, in improving the functioning of the internal market, and enhancing competitiveness and innovation.
A majority considered that the lack of a hazard category for the classification and labelling of endocrine disruptors poses a problem for their consistent identification and risk management. On the question of EU-added value, most respondents reported that unilateral Member State actions had not affected their company.
The findings of the SME survey have been reported back to the Enterprise Europe Network, and will be included in the final report of the Fitness check.
The findings from the three surveys provide a valuable input to the Fitness Check. In line with the Commission’s Better Regulation guidelines, a synopsis report will detail the consultation activities, as part of with a Staff Working Document, at the end of the process. Following an independent review of these outputs by the Commission’s Regulatory Scrutiny Board, it is foreseen that the Fitness Check will be finalised in the Summer.
The findings of the Fitness Check will inform the Commission’s policy initiatives under the EU Green Deal.
For a comprehensive overview of European Commission activities related to Endocrine Disruptors visit the Commission’s information portal.
- 15 April 2020