Currently, more than 100 000 chemicals are released into the environment and come in contact with humans via for example preservatives in food, flame retardants in computers and plastic softeners. For about 80 000 of these chemicals there is not enough knowledge to say if, and in that case how, harmful they might be to humans. Chemicals as contaminants in food are of great concern to European consumers, as shown in the latest EU Barometer survey. It shows that 63% are concerned about pesticide residues in fruit and vegetables, as compared to the 62% who are worried about bird flu type viruses.
The EU proposal for legislation called REACH suggests that all chemicals used in industry must be registered, evaluated and approved and that the spread of potentially harmful chemicals be limited.
CASCADE studies different aspects of endocrine systems, and argue that decisions on how a chemical is used must be based on scientific data.
“We believe that the EU Parliament must consider long-term effects of exposure to chemicals and protect the European population from involuntary exposure to potentially toxic chemicals”, says Professor Jan-Åke Gustafsson, Karolinska Institutet, coordinator of CASCADE.
As a result of REACH, EU will be one of the first regions in the world to form a joint view on health aspects of chemical contaminants in food. This legislation will have profound effects on areas such as industry, food safety and environmental concern within and outside EU. The much debated REACH proposal will be up for a second reading in the Parliament European Council later this year.
“We call for open discussions on the implications of REACH, with consumer organisations and industry. As a network of top scientists in this field we feel it is our responsibility to provide a platform for such discussions”, says Jan-Åke Gustafsson.