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February 2017

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Safer Chemicals

EDC criteria update

On 8th February 2017, the European Commission issued its fourth draft of Endocrine Disrupting Chemicals (EDC) criteria required under Biocidal Products Regulation (528/2012), and Article 80 (7) of the Pesticides Regulation (1107/2009): (click through for the latest versions of the Biocides EDC Criteria and Pesticides EDC criteria). This most recent draft will be on the agenda of the Standing Committee on Plants, Animals, Food, and Feed Committee (PAFF) and Biocides Committee due to meet on the 28th February.

Ahead of this meeting, as part of EDC-free Europe, HCWH Europe co-signed a letter addressed to European Commission First Vice-President Mr Frans Timmermans. In addition, we sent a letter to all the EU Health Ministers as well as to those national experts sitting on the Biocides Committee.

Since June 2016, we have repeatedly written to EU Health Ministers, various Member States’ Permanent Representations, experts on the Biocides Committee, the European Commission, and even the ENVI Committee of the European Parliament. Each time we have shared our deep concern at the on-going discussion about the elaboration of the EDC criteria (as currently defined by the draft delegated act under the Biocidal Product Regulation (EU) No 528/2012).

Specifically, we alerted them to the potentially damaging knock-on effects of the BP EDC criteria on the Medical Devices Regulation (soon to be formally adopted). Sadly, the revised EDC criteria proposal that was issued on 8th February remains a source of concern, in particular the high burden of proof required to identify EDCs.

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To learn more about EDCs, their current use in healthcare, and the availability of safer alternatives - visit our infographic:


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EDCs blog | Indecision, hesitation, and delays


No, you are not about to read an undergraduate essay on Hamlet - this is a blog about Endocrine Disrupting Chemicals (EDCs).

In a few days the experts from the Standing Committee on Plants, Animals, Food and Feed (PAFF Committee) and the Biocides Committee will meet. These two committees, chaired by the European Commission, consist of representatives from governments of all EU Member States. They are part of the Byzantine regulatory architecture that essentially ensures that countries control how the European Commission implements EU laws.

I would venture to say that by now the representatives sitting on these two committees must know each other pretty well - they must even be quite chummy in fact after all these meetings on EDCs. On the 28th February they will meet yet again to discuss the fourth revised version of the long awaited EDC criteria, that the European Commission was under a legal obligation to prepare by December 2013, nearly half a decade ago…

The issue with EDCs is that they affect the way our hormones work. Mounting evidence coming not only from the Endocrine Society, but also the World Health Organisation (WHO) and the broader scientific community indicates that exposures to such EDCs in “animals and humans, especially during development, may lay the foundations for disease later in life. More than 1,300 studies have found connections between EDC exposure and serious health conditions” (See Endocrine Society’s 2015 Scientific Statement).

Sadly, the revised EDC criteria proposal was issued on 8th February remains a source of concern, in particular the high burden of proof required to identify EDCs. The reaction of the majority of scientists and of civil society to this fourth iteration were therefore predictable.

The Endocrine Society was clear: European Commission's revised proposal limits the ability to protect public from endocrine-disrupting chemicals. EDC Free Europe (a coalition of NGOs and civil society representatives including HCWH Europe) was just as explicit in its letter to Mr Frans Timmermans, European Commission First Vice-President: the criteria as they stand are neither “efficient” nor “coherent”.

HCWH Europe shares these views and has also repeatedly pointed out that the proposed criteria do not tally with the precautionary principle approach. In an earlier blog (A group of scientists reveals that water boils at 60°Celsius) we questioned why the European Commission was straying from the precautionary principle in requiring such an exactingly high level of proof. It is odd for the European Commission to be out of step with the apparent consensus that seems to emerge amongst most independent scientists, the European Parliament, the EDC-Free Europe coalition and, presumably, any well-informed EU citizen...

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REACH identifies four EDCs

HCWH Europe warmly welcomes the EU´s decision to identify DEHP, BBP, DBP, and DIBP as endocrine disrupting chemicals (EDCs) for humans under the EU’s REACH Regulation. The decision was made at the meeting of the REACH Committee on 16th February 2017.

Whilst the full decision was approved by a qualified majority of the EU Member States, the Member States Committee of the European Chemical Agency (ECHA) “unanimously acknowledged that for DEHP, BBP, DBP, and DIBP there is scientific evidence on the endocrine activity and on the link between this activity and the adverse effects to human health and further”. ECHA also agreed that these substances “can be considered endocrine disruptors for human health as they fulfil the WHO/IPCS definition for an endocrine disruptor”, this is further supported by recommendations from the European Commission’s Expert Advisory Group for identifying substances as endocrine disruptors.

As a result, these chemicals (DEHP, BBP, DBP, and DIBP) should be identified under Article 57 (f) of the REACH Regulation as substances of very high concern. This identification is specifically due to their endocrine disrupting properties (for which there is scientific evidence of probable serious effects to human health).

This news is particularly pleasing as HCWH Europe has been active in tackling the health issues linked to endocrine disrupting chemicals (EDCs), specifically focussing on medical devices. Annex I, 7.4.1 (b) of the new Medical Devices Regulation explicitly states that substances having endocrine disrupting properties will also be identified through the REACH process. We therefore welcome this decision as a promising first step to develop horizontal measures that will ensure the minimisation of EDC exposure.

These chemicals are present in several materials on the EU market, including the following products often found in healthcare settings:

  • Flooring and heavy wall covering
  • Insulation on wires and cables
  • Plastic tubing, conveyors, storage, and packaging materials
  • Tablecloth, curtains and similar items made of PVC film or coated fabrics
  • Plastic coated wallpaper/tapestry
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Civil Society urges MEPs to reject CETA


10 NGOs, representing hundreds of concerned European organisations from a variety of backgrounds (primarily healthcare, environment, and gender equality), are asking MEPs to protect EU citizens and the environment by rejecting the EU-Canada Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA). 

Ahead of the European Parliament's upcoming plenary vote on CETA (15th February), HCWH Europe sent a letter to all MEPs on behalf of the concerned NGOs, asking the EU to not be too responsive to private interests which endangers future ambitious public health and environmental policies and legal measures.


The letter above was sent to all MEPs: "take this last opportunity
to protect your citizens and the environment". 

CETA will allow foreign investors to claim compensation from the EU or a Member State if measures aimed to protect our health or environment breach CETA’s investor rights. This mechanism could lead to a regulatory chill effect, watering down future ambitious public health and environmental policies and legal measures. Find more details in this informative report prepared by CIEL ...

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Pharmaceuticals
On Tuesday, March 28th HCWH Europe and HCWH US & Canada will host a joint webinar: "The (un)recognised pathways of AMR: Air pollution and food".

The aim of this webinar is to address and examine two important means of transmitting drug-resistant bacteria - food and air. It is well known that the health sector contributes to pharmaceutical pollution of the environment (which leads to AMR) through inappropriate prescription practices, poor waste management, and unhealthy food choices in hospitals.
 
Some hospitals, however, have made a commitment to antibiotic stewardship and are working to reduce antibiotic misuse and overuse in different ways, such as foodservice procurement and eco-initiatives centred on sustainability and waste management. The quality of food in hospitals impacts patient's recovery, and the shift in the procurement of hospital food towards natural, sustainable, and antibiotic-free products can create/develop consumer trends throughout the entire community.
 
The damaging health effects of air pollution are already well known, although recently scientists from the University of Gothenburg in Sweden have shown that polluted air can also be a means of transmitting drug-resistant bacteria. How does this affect our health, and how severe is this threat? Find out in our webinar on 28th March.
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HCWH Europe at the German Chancellory to discuss antibiotics
 
HCWH Europe Executive Director - Anja Leetz attended the Third International German Forum at thev Chancellory in Berlin 22nd  - 23rd February. For two days, 120 global experts discussed improving the use of antibiotics, using the potential of information and communications technology, and fighting neglected tropical diseases and mental health.

As well as joining the discussions, Anja shared HCWH Europe's most recent leaflets, one on pharmaceutical pollution (also available in German) and another concerning antimicrobial resistance (AMR).

On the second day all experts came together to present Dr Angela Merkel with their findings. During the debate, Anja urged the chancellor to push for clear policies that will provide more transparency on the use of antibiotics, for both human and veterinary use and clear goals with a reduction of overuse and the promotion of rational use.

The discussion with German chancellor Angela Merkel is available online
Watch the discussion

Member Update

International Society Doctors for the Environment annual meeting held in Vienna

 
HCWH Europe member, the International Society Doctors for the Environment (ISDE) is a global umbrella organisation of national groups of medical doctors working for a healthy environment. The global outreach of ISDE with members in Europe, both Americas, Asia, Australia, and Africa leads to hard choices balancing communication needs and sustainable travel policy.

For our annual board meeting this time (February 2017) we chose to test a combination of in-person meeting in Vienna, Austria, plus a Skype conference. Overcoming a series of technical problems we were able to conduct a very well organised and successful meeting.

E-mail decisions of the past year were confirmed and documented and new member organisations were welcomed to the ISDE family. Details of the board meeting are accessible for ISDE members at the “members only” section of our homepage (www.isde.org).

Words by Hanns Moshammer (HCWH Europe Chair of the Board, ISDE board member, and host of the meeting).
www.isde.org

Other News

HCWH Europe 2017 AGM 


The 2017 HCWH Europe AGM will take place at Vivantes Hospital Berlin, on 4th and 5th May. Over two days, members from around Europe will come together to discuss HCWH Europe's work and work together to make the European healthcare sector more sustainable.

For the first time, both HCWH Europe and European Global Green and Healthy Hospitals (GGHH) members are invited to attend, and a parallel GGHH member workshop will take place at the same time as the AGM.

There will also be breakout sessions and extremely interesting site visits planned so that members can plan together and network.

If you are a HCWH Europe or a European GGHH member and would like to attend, please contact europemembers@hcwh.org for more information.

To learn about our members, and discover how your organisation can join, please visit our
members page.
AGM Agenda cover image
© Stacey MacNaught via Flickr CC

HCWH Europe members

HCWH Europe at Health Promoting Hospitals and Health Services conference

 
HCWH Europe will be presenting in two sessions at the upcoming HPH conference in Vienna 10th - 15th April. 

Reducing food waste through sustainable procurement: Case studies from the European healthcare sector

This session will discuss how the healthcare sector can provide healthy and sustainable food and improve the nutrition and the well being of their patients and employees.  Two keynote speakers, who will share their best practices from their healthcare institutions, will present priorities, challenges and opportunities linking healthy food and wellbeing. After the presentations, an open and constructive group debate will take place where all participants will be welcome to showcase their experiences. Main conclusions and next steps will be drawn from the outcome of the group debate. HCWH Europe will present it's upcoming food report as part of this session

Reducing the European health sector's climate impacts

Energy efficiency and implementing renewable energy systems are the easiest and most cost-effective solutions for European hospitals reducing climate footprints. Measuring and reducing GHG emissions from procurement materials requires advanced action, resulting in better purchasing practices and methodologies, already available in Europe. HCWH Europe will premiere it's climate report which identifies solutions adopted by hospitals, proven to reduce costs, pollution, and improve health effectively.
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