U.S. trade officials pressured the European Union (EU) not to regulate hormone-damaging chemicals that have been linked to health issues such as cancer, fertility and diabetes during talks over the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP), according to documents obtained by Pesticides Action Network Europe.
The EU had been considering a new approach that would ban dozens of pesticides containing chemicals that disrupt the hormone estrogen, but it backed off under pressure from U.S. government officials and lobbyists. At stake was the controversial TTIP free-trade deal, which would lower trade barriers between the United States and Europe.
Endocrine disruptors can be found in products ranging from plastics to pesticides. Exposure to them is associated with cancer and infertility, and the European Commission’s Directorate-General for the Environment had been charged with developing criteria that would designate chemicals as endocrine disruptors. Once identified, those chemicals would be banned, and human and environmental exposure to those dangerous substances would be limited. That, at least, had been the plan, according to Pesticides Action Network Europe.
One day in July 2013, all that changed. Representatives from the U.S. Mission to Europe and the American Chamber of Commerce met with and persuaded European Union officials to drop the proposal to identify these chemicals. Although those officials had voiced concerns about “lowering the EU standards,” they relented, the Guardian reported.
“A major EU public health initiative was effectively obstructed by corporate lobby groups in tandem with actors within the European Commission,” Pesticides Action Network Europe said in its report. It estimated the medical costs of conditions linked to the chemicals at $172 billion per year in Europe.
An internal note to European Health Commissioner Tonio Borg warned before the July 2013 meeting that the proposal to identify endocrine-disrupting chemicals would “have substantial impacts for the economy, agriculture and trade” and that “the U.S., Canada, and Brazil [have] already voiced concerns on the criteria which might lead to important repercussions on trade,” the Guardian reported.
A spokesperson for the European Commission said that the EU would continue to define criteria to identify the chemicals “independently from the further course of our TTIP negotiations with the U.S.”