Endocrine disruptors that affect the hormonal systems can cause severe damage to organisms, populations or eco-systems.
Hormonal (endocrine) regulation is one of the body's most important ways of maintaining physiological balance. In addition, reproductive physiology, including foetal development, is largely controlled by hormones.
Our functioning endocrine systems are crucial in maintaining many physiological functions in mammals, other vertebrates and also lower animals. Substances that disrupt the body's endocrine system may give rise to a number of different factors such as reproductive disturbance or malformation, cancer, diabetes, cardiovascular diseases, brittle-bone disease and damage to the immune system and nervous system, of which the latter in turn may lead to behavioural effects.
Swedish activity at EU level
Sweden has been very active during the review of endocrine disruptors in the EU. In the early 1990s the Swedish Chemicals Agency prohibited several plant protection products with endocrine-disrupting properties posing serious carcinogenic and reproductive effects in animal experiments.
Early in the EU review program for active substances, Sweden pressed for a satisfactory level of protection to be established both for human health and for the environment. A number of these substances are now prohibited, such as vinclozolin, procymidone and fenarimol. Sweden was at first alone in arguing that these substances should be prohibited. Several countries then backed the demand for regulation so that a majority could be reached, but it was a long and arduous process.
Research has progressed in this area, and it has been shown that the traditional risk assessment for chemicals fails to capture effects induced via the endocrine mechanism.
Provisions have therefore been included in the new Plant Protection Products Regulation (EC) No 1107/2009 under which plant protection products classified as endocrine disruptors cannot be sold and used in the EU.