Molecular model of Bisphenol A. This chemical is used in the plastics industry as an antioxidant and as a component of epoxy resins and polycarbonate plastics. 

Hormone-related disorders have gone up over the last 20 years and one of the causes behind this could be endocrine-disrupting chemicals. A report calling for a reduction in exposure to these chemicals will be debated by the European Parliament on Tuesday and voted on Thursday. Swedish Social Democrat MEP Åsa Westlund, who wrote the report, explained: "Even if we do not have all the answers, we do know enough to regulate these substances in accordance with the precautionary principle."

What are endocrine disruptors?

The endocrine system regulates much of what happens in the body including reproduction, immunity, metabolism and behaviour. However, how it functions could be altered by chemicals known as endocrine disruptors, which could leave people's health worse off. Potential endocrine disruptors include for example steroid hormones, some pesticides, polychlorinated biphenols (PCBs), dioxins and plastic additives.

What does the report ask for?

The report calls for a number of specific measures, including:

  • Fast measures to protect vulnerable groups such as children, young people and pregnant women
  • The EU should develop horizontal criteria for deciding which substances are endocrine disruptors and which are not
  • The addition of tests identifying endocrine disruptors to existing EU legislation on chemicals
  • Endocrine disruptors should be treated as substances of very high concern in REACH regulation

Time for action

Ms Westlund explained why she decided to write the report: "The parliament report aims to identify a way forward on how we should handle the issue of endocrine disrupting chemicals. I want to make it clear that the time for political action has come." 

Follow the debate live on our website on Tuesday afternoon.

Endocrine disruptors could play a role in: 
  • declining sperm counts 
  • congenital malformations in children 
  • increase in hormone-related cancers 
  • retarded or early sexual development 
  • neurological development disorders such as autism and ADHD