Washington, DC -- Ministers from 13 European Union countries are contaminated with dozens of industrial chemicals according to results of blood tests released today by World Wildlife Fund. Fourteen Environment and Health Ministers were tested in June 2004 for a variety of chemicals that can negatively impact wildlife and human health.
"The contamination of these EU lawmakers demonstrates that no one is immune from industrial chemicals, the effects of which are largely unknown," said Clifton Curtis, director of WWF's Toxics Program. "It is hard to believe that legislators in Europe, the United States, and throughout the world have been willing to allow this uncontrolled experiment to continue for so many years."
The chemicals found in the Ministers include those used in fire-resistant sofas, non-stick pans, grease proof-pizza boxes, flexible PVC, fragrances and pesticides. Some were banned decades ago though many are still in use today.
Fifty-five chemicals were found in the Ministers' blood - fifty-three per cent of the 103 chemicals tested. The Ministers had an average of thirty-seven chemicals in their blood. Twenty-five of the same chemicals were found in all the Ministers: one flame retardant, two pesticides, and twenty two PCBs.
Chemical contamination is a threat to wildlife and people. The chemicals found in the Ministers also contaminate polar bears, dolphins, birds of prey, and many other species even in the most remote environments. Although the majority of chemicals in commercial use today do not have enough safety information publicly available to do a basic safety assessment, research increasingly links chemicals to cancers, allergies, reproductive problems, and defects in children's development.
Many of the chemicals found in the Ministers are persistent, bio-accumulative and capable of disrupting the hormone systems of wildlife and people. The ability of some chemicals to interfere with our hormones has only relatively recently been discovered by scientists and even more recently acknowledged by the chemical industry.
The tests are part of WWF's efforts to strengthen support within the European Union on REACH - the proposed new chemical law that should lead to the identification and phasing out of the most harmful chemicals.
1. The 14 Ministers tested are the following:
- Ms Constantina Akkelidou, CYPRUS, inister of Health
- Libor Ambrozek, CZECH REPUBLIC, Minister of Environment
- Mr. Hans Christian Schmidt, DENMARK, Minister of Environment (at time of test)
- Mr Olavi Tammemäe, ESTONIA, vice minister Environment
- Jan-Erik Enestam, FINLAND, Minister of Environment
- Serge Lepeltier, FRANCE, Minister of Environment
- Dr. Miklós Persányi, HUNGARY, Minister of Environment
- Mr Mihaly Kokeny, HUNGARY, Minister of Health
- Roberto Tortoli, ITALY, Environment vice-minister
- Mr.Juozas Olekas, LITHUANIA, Minister of Health
- Laszlo Miklos, SLOVAKIA, Minister of Environment
- Ms Christina Narbona, SPAIN, Minister of Environment
- Mrs Lena Sommestad, SWEDEN, Minister of Environment
- Alun Michael, UK, Minister of Environment
2. The 103 chemicals come from 5 groups:
- Brominated flame retardants -- some, but not all, of which have been recently banned in the EU
- Phthalates -- banned from some children's toys but otherwise still widely used
- Pefluorinated chemicals -- widely used in water or grease-resistant coatings for pizza and french-fry boxes, clothes, carpets and even pans
- PCBS -- banned in Europe in the 1970's
- Organo-chlorine pesticides -- many of which were banned in Europe over 20 years ago, including DDT.