Info Service on Health Issues (November 06/10)
Scientists propose curbs on toxic chemicals
are calling for a ban of all hazardous chemicals present in pesticides
used in intensive agriculture, in electronic devices, cosmetics and
medicines. New research shows that many newborns are contaminated with
more than 200 chemicals.
following article is reproduced with the permission of South-North Development
Monitor (SUNS) # 6146, 22 November 2006.
Health: Scientists propose
more curbs on hazardous chemicals
By Julio Godoy, IPS, Paris,
20 November 2006
A group of scientists, including
several Nobel laureates in medicine, are urging international institutions
and governments in the industrialised world to adopt a radical policy
against chemical pollution in order to protect human health.
In the so-called Paris Appeal presented in the French capital earlier
in November, the scientists are calling for "banning all products
that are certainly or probably carcinogenic - as specified by competent
international scientific authorities and organisations."
The scientists underline that such chemical substances, despite the
proved danger they represent, are still present in pesticides and other
products widely used in intensive agriculture, in numerous domestic
electronic devices, cosmetics and even medicines.
The Paris Appeal was first formulated in 2004 during a meeting at the
UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO). In the
new version of the paper, the authors develop 164 measures to drastically
reduce chemical pollution that they say is threatening human survival.
"Chronic diseases registered by WHO (World Health Organisation),
especially cancers, are increasing alarmingly," the document says.
"This general deterioration of health is the bill we have to pay
for the pollution that we produce," Dominique Belpomme, leading
French cancer expert and initiator of the Paris Appeal, told IPS.
"The concept of sustainable development is not enough to offset
the pollution's health dangers. We need to associate with the concept
of sustainable health, indivisibly linked with a real environmental
Among the signatories to the appeal are French Nobel prize laureates
in medicine Jean Dausset (1980) and Francois Jacob (1965) as well as
hundreds of other European scientists representing practically the totality
of medical associations from all 25 European Union (EU) country members,
hundreds of non-governmental organisations, and some 150,000 European
The appeal comes ahead of the European Parliament meeting to give definitive
approval to the new European regulation on chemicals - the Registration,
Evaluation and Authorisation of Chemicals (REACH) system. The European
Parliament is scheduled to vote on REACH in the week beginning December
"REACH will provide a high level of protection of human health
and the environment," according to the European Commission, the
executive arm of the EU. "At the same time, it will enhance the
competitiveness of the EU chemicals industry by fostering innovation
and ensuring high safety standards for its products."
Under REACH, chemicals presenting a certain level of danger would not
be permitted for continued use except in cases where the chemical serves
an essential social role and there are no effective alternatives.
In their appeal, Belpomme and his colleagues are calling on the EU to
"reinforce the REACH programme so as to ensure substitution of
the most dangerous chemicals for man with less dangerous substitutes."
The document urges the rest of the world to adopt "international
regulations to control the marketing of chemicals following the REACH
programme in a reinforced version."
The Paris Appeal also calls for more attention to the health dangers
represented by pesticides and phthalates, which are chemical additives
widely used in plastics, home devices, medicine and cosmetics, mainly
to make them soft and flexible.
New research shows that "many newborns at the moment of their birth
are already contaminated with more than 200 chemical substances,"
Belpomme added. "Up to 75% of cancers are provoked by chemical
Charles Sultan, toxicologist in the French Mediterranean city Montpellier
told IPS: "I have found up to 300 chemical substances in the blood
of the umbilical cordon in newborn babies. These substances are responsible
for endocrinal perturbations, from genetic deformations to growth problems
and brain development."
Similar findings have been reported elsewhere in Europe. Henrik Leffers,
researcher at the Copenhagen University Hospital's department for growth
and reproduction, and who took part in the presentation of the Paris
Appeal, stressed that human exposure to phthalates "is a major
cause of chemical poisoning."
According to the French National Research Institute on Health Safety,
some three million tonnes of phthalates are produced every year worldwide.
"From animal studies increasingly more evidence is pointing to
the fact that the phthalates constitute a health menace," Leffers
"When I say phthalates, most people think of plastic bags and toys
for children and things like that, but the exposure comes from cosmetics,"
"Of the creams and oils you rub on your skin, a substantial part
will be absorbed through the skin and further into the bloodstream and
affect all organs, and it is here [that] the exposure of phthalates
The scientists emphasise also that radical reform of the European agricultural
policy is needed, from the present financial aid to mass production
towards organic agriculture, free of pesticides and other chemical components.
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