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Chemicals: Hazard vs risk debate reopened over EDC

The European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) has challenged the way the EU deals with endocrine disrupting chemicals (EDCs) claiming that a risk assessment approach would be more appropriate. There are currently two strands of thinking when dealing with dangerous chemicals such as these, the hazard-based approach, which is the current strategy used by the EU, or a risk-based policy which is now being put forward by EFSA. The hazard-based approach follows the idea that a hazard only becomes a concern once the exposure level goes above a certain level. The combination of hazard and exposure is called risk. Member states, when devising the regulation, had believed that risk assessments of endocrine disrupters were not possible as you could not be certain over what dangerous levels of exposure were. Therefore as per the precautionary principle, the simple existence of an endocrine disrupting hazard should trigger regulatory action. Yet EFSA disagree with this policy. They believe that risk assessments would be better at establishing the risk associated with endocrine disrupters. They want regulation based on actual, rather than potential risk and have stated that “there must be reasonable evidence for a biologically plausible causal relationship between the endocrine activity and the induced adverse effect(s) seen in an intact organism or a (sub)population for a substance to be identified as an ED.” EDs can therefore be treated subject to a risk assessment using hazard and exposure data/predictions in order to make the best assessment according to information available, this is in line with procedure for other substance that cause human health concerns. The European Commission is expected to propose a definition in June READ MORE.

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Issue 21