Documents considered by the Committee on 27 March 2019 Contents

4EU framework on endocrine disruptors

Committee’s assessment

Politically important

Committee’s decision

Cleared from scrutiny (decision reported on 19/12/2018); drawn to the attention of the Environmental Audit Committee

Document details

Commission Communication—Towards a European Union framework on endocrine disruptors

Legal base


Environment, Food and Rural Affairs

Document Number

(40172), 14204/18, COM(18) 734

Summary and Committee’s conclusions

4.1Endocrine disruptors (EDs) are chemicals that have the potential to harm people or wildlife by affecting endocrine (hormone) systems. Exposure to EDs can occur from different sources, such as residues of pesticides or consumer products used or present in daily life. Recognising the need for the EU to step up its efforts, the Commission tabled a new strategy late last year.

4.2We last considered the Commission’s document at our meeting of 13 February 2019, considering it to be a helpful case study of an emerging policy area regarding which it is inevitable that there will need to be a high degree of cooperation between the UK and the EU in the future should there be a desire to maintain strong trade links. We asked the Minister to report back on the discussion at the 5 March Environment Council,6 extrapolating any potential implications for the UK arising from the Council discussion.

4.3The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Environment (Dr Thérèse Coffey MP) has responded,7 explaining that the Communication was welcomed by Member States, although some countries—including France, Denmark and Sweden—called for more ambitious and concrete actions, such as a ban on EDs in toys and consumer goods.

4.4For its part, the European Commission summarised the key elements of the Commission and announced the upcoming launch of a fitness check on EDs (a platform to assess current EU legislation with the aim of concluding findings early 2020) and a new comprehensive forum to engage stakeholders.

4.5The Minister made clear during the discussion that the UK welcomes the communication and is ready to collaborate closely on this important area in the future. She advocated a risk-based approach and suggested some practical strategies to target efforts on the areas of highest potential impact, while minimising testing on vertebrate animals. She was also able to highlight the UK’s strong contribution in the area of scientific research and alternative test methods, for example through our OECD projects as outlined in our 25 Year Environment Plan. There was a strong consensus on the need for further research in this area, particularly on the effect of mixtures.

4.6After the UK leaves the EU, says the Minister, the UK will remain fully committed to the effective and safe management of chemicals. Ensuring that endocrine disrupting chemicals do not harm human health or the environment will continue to be a priority. Harmful chemicals will continue to be regulated tightly, either through agreed terms of an implementation period and negotiations on a future economic partnership, or through the regulatory provisions that have been made for a no deal outcome.

4.7The impact of emerging EU policy on the UK regime will depend on what, if any, specific measures are brought forward by the EU following the current fitness check exercise. After EU Exit, the UK may be able to make its own regulatory decisions, either independently or in response to EU evaluations and decisions. The extent to which the UK will be able to either diverge from, or influence, EU regulatory decisions will be determined by the terms on which the UK leaves the EU.

4.8We welcome the Minister’s summary of the discussion on this topic at the 5 March Environment Council and note both the emerging nature of policy and the potential impact of future EU policy on the UK. While we accept that the impact on the UK will depend on what measures emerge from the EU, it is also the case that the UK must not be a passive recipient of any such policy. The UK’s working assumption must be that there will indeed be new policy and that it will affect the UK and therefore the UK must have its own strategy to influence that policy, whether from inside or outside the EU.

4.9The Environmental Audit Committee is undertaking an inquiry into toxic chemicals in everyday life, including endocrine disruptors. We therefore draw this chapter to the attention of that Committee. The document has already been cleared from scrutiny and we require no further information from the Minister.

Full details of the documents

Commission Communication—Towards a European Union framework on endocrine disruptors: (40172), 14204/18, COM(18) 734.

Previous Committee Reports

Fifty-fifth Report HC 301–liv (2017–19), chapter 6 (13 February 2019); Forty-ninth Report HC 301–xlviii (2017–19), chapter 8 (19 December 2018).

6 Outcome of the Council meeting, Environment Council 5 March 2019, Council document 7171/19.

7 Letter from Dr Thérèse Coffey MP to Sir William Cash MP, dated 15 March 2019.

Published: 2 April