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Major Danish study identifies nine new EDCs

Science - Endocrine ©Kateryna_Kon - stock.adobe.com

The Danish environment ministry has published a major study that identifies nine new substances as endocrine disruptors based on "solid scientific evidence".

The study, commissioned by the Danish EPA and carried out by researchers from the DTU Food Institute and the University of Southern Denmark, screened thousands of chemicals for endocrine-disrupting properties.

Bisphenol AF (BPAF), considered an alternative to bisphenol A (BPA), is amongst them. Earlier this year an NGO called on EU regulators to "phase out" the use of groups of similar chemicals to prevent substitution of one hazardous substance with a related one that has similar properties.

The nine chemicals identified as EDCs and their effects are:

  • bisphenol AF – humans and environment;
  • di-n-pentylphthalate – humans;
  • fenitrothion – humans;
  • isobutyl paraben – humans;
  • octamethylcyclotetrasiloxane (D4) – humans;
  • prochloraz – humans and environment;
  • triclocarban – humans;
  • tris(methylphenyl) phosphate – humans; and
  • salicylic acid – humans.

All nine chemicals can be termed EDCs based on the EU's new criteria for pesticides that came into force in June, a report from the study said. None of the substances have yet been subject to evaluation under the EU regulatory system.

The study's 'list of lists' took more than a year to compile through scientific research to prioritise potential EDCs from several existing lists of hazardous chemicals published by NGOs and authorities. These include, for example, ChemSec's Substitute It Now (SIN) List and another from the World Health Organization (WHO). Earlier this year the UN also released its own record.

A major contribution came from Echa in the form of a 'master list' of some 7,200 substances – a confidential database of mainly registered chemicals at tonnages of 100t or higher. The Danish EPA signed a confidentiality agreement to obtain access to it, senior DTU researcher Sofie Christiansen told Chemical Watch.

The final list was assembled from a priority lineup of 28 substances from Echa's master list and 28 from other databases. The two sets were handled differently because the Echa list included a "substantial" amount of information that was not in others, the report said.

It also identified four other chemicals as suspected EDCs. These, listed below, could not be determined as EDCs due to gaps in data:

  • 2-(4-tertbutylbenzyl)-propionaldehyde – humans;
  • bifenthrin – environment;
  • deltamethrin – humans; and
  • hexachlorophene – humans.

Missing data

The report was submitted to the Danish EPA at the end of 2017 before undergoing further analysis and checks.

The nine EDCs identified in the report are just "the tip of the iceberg", Ms Christiansen said and researchers estimate there is "significant evidence" for the other four to be identified as EDCs.

More research and data are needed to assess the potential hormone-disrupting effects of others, as well as the extent to which people and the environment are exposed, the report concluded.

For example, a screening of available literature on 52 selected substances prior to the final list showed there was a lack of relevant data for 40-50% of them.

The report also recommended further literature review of 119 non-screened prioritised chemicals and thorough evaluation of the potentially relevant ones.

The Danish study comprised a reevaluation of 17 substances previously evaluated as EDCs and confirmed that ten of them fulfil the WHO definition.

Other member states have been testing suspected endocrine disruptors. A year ago an investigation by the Swedish Chemicals Agency found that 37 of 39 bisphenols surveyed on the European market could have potential EDC qualities.

Separately, this week EU member states discussed an amendment to the pesticides law in relation to EDCs that could end an existing ban on spraying in open fields.

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