Traditional methods of risk assessment only asses the risk of exposure to single chemicals and do not investigate the cumulative effects of the ‘cocktail’ of chemicals we are exposed to every day, according to Sweden’s environment ministry.
Chemicals found in cosmetics, such as phthalates, parabens and UV filters, add to our daily exposure to endocrine disrupting compounds, explained spokesperson for the ministry Lennart Bodén.
The move is a response to an increasing number of studies showing reduced semen quality, increasing incidences of testicular cancer and malformations of male reproductive organs, which could be related to exposure to endocrine disruptors, according to the ministry.
Bodén referenced a number of recent animal studies that showed malformations of the reproductive organs of offspring when mothers were exposed to a combination of endocrine disruptors at concentrations below the levels considered safe for individual substances.
Furthermore, in January 2009 Denmark held a workshop focusing on the combination effects of chemicals, especially endocrine disruptors.
Current risk assessment concept ‘insufficient’
“Their main conclusion is that the current concept for risk assessment of chemicals is insufficient to protect against the possibility of combination effects and that an amendment of the legal framework in Europe with a view to include combination effects in chemical risk assessment should be given serious consideration,” he said.
Sweden is preparing conclusions on the cumulative exposure to endocrine disruptors that will be presented at November’s meeting of the environmental working party, with the aim of getting it on the agenda for the meeting of the EU’s Environment Council in December.
The Swedish ministry hopes that the Commission will recommend how exposure to multiple endocrine disruptors shall be addressed in the context of existing legislation to protect human health and the environment.
“As a result we hope that this problem will be dealt with sooner rather than later,” he added.
Parabens are commonly used preservatives that have received significant bad press of late leading to some companies removing them from their formulations and offering ‘free from parabens’ products; however, industry has long defended their use saying they are a cheap and effective preservative solution and there is no scientific basis for concern.
Phthalates are a large family of substances some of which are used as plasticizers in nail varnishes and as perfume fixatives. A number of studies have suggested links between high phthalate exposure and birth defects. Similarly, there have been concerns voiced about the potential endocrine disrupting effects of a number of organic UV filters.