New workshop report on mixtures of endocrine disrupters

The Danish ministry for the environment recently conducted a workshop on combination effects of chemicals (28-30 January 2009). Although I was invited I unfortunately couldn’t make it. During the time I was hosting some nice, lively influenza viruses.  All the fun you can have…

Andreas Kortenkamp from the School of Pharmacy in London was organising the workshop, hence it might not be that surprising, that the main focus was on mixtures of endocrine disrupters. However, most of the conclusions also hold true for mixtures of chemicals from other areas.

To just quote the summary:

An expert workshop on effects of combined exposure to chemicals, with special emphasis on chemicals with endocrine activity was held under the auspices of the Danish Ministry of the Environment. The aim of the workshop was to examine existing scientific knowledge on combination effects of endocrine disrupters, with a focus on regulatory aspects. The workshop participants considered the state of the science of mixtures risk assessment for endocrine disrupters, and discussed the feasibility of approaches to cumulative risk assessment.

A consensus about a number of important issues could be formulated, and this included a series of recommendations:

Cumulative risk assessment (CRA) for endocrine disrupters was seen as both necessary and feasible. The predominant chemical-by-chemical approach in risk assessment was regarded as insufficiently protective against the possibility of mixture effects/ effects of combined exposure.

The application of dose (or concentration) addition as an assessment method was recommended as a default, until evidence as to the suitability of alternative assessment concepts emerges.

A pre-occupation with mechanisms or modes of action as the starting point for the grouping of endocrine disrupters into classes to be subjected to mixtures risk assessment  was seen as not practical and scientifically hard to justify. Instead, grouping criteria should focus on common health related effects and the likelihood of co-exposures.

The full potential of CRA for endocrine disrupters cannot be reached without filling a number of data gaps, most importantly in the area of mixtures exposure assessment.
An enhancement of the legal framework in Europe with a view to mandating CRA should be given serious consideration.

The final workshop report hast just been published and can be downloaded here (PDF, in English).


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Substances subject to authorisation under REACH

ECHA, the European Chemicals Agency,  published the first recommendations for substances to be included in Annex XIV of REACH, i.e. substances that are subject to authorisation. These are the following (excerpt from the offical press release of the ECHA):

  • musk xylene (vPvB). A fragrance enhancer which is used for example in detergents, fabric softeners and fabric conditioners;
  • 4,4`-diaminodiphenylmethane – MDA (carcinogenic). A hardener which is used for example in epoxy resins and adhesives;
  • short chained chlorinated paraffins – SCCPs (PBT and vPvB). A substance mostly used as flame retardant and/or plasticiser in various applications such as highperformance rubber, sealants, paints or textile coating;
  • hexabromocyclododecane – HBCDD (PBT). A flame retardant which is used for example in polystyrene, which is then further processed for the production of insulation panels/boards or packaging products, and in textile applications;
  • bis(2-ethylhexyl)phthalate – DEHP (Toxic for reproduction). A plasticiser which is used in a wide range of PVC and other polymers applications, such as for example flooring, roofing, coated fabrics, medical devices or primary packaging of medicinal products, as well as in various preparations such as for example sealants, adhesives and inks;
  • benzylbutylphthalate – BBP (Toxic for reproduction). A plasticiser which is used for example in polymer products, and in particular in PVC for flooring applications, in textile and leather coating, as well as in various other preparations such as sealants, coating and inks or adhesives;
  • dibutylphthalate – DBP (Toxic for reproduction). A specialist plasticiser which is used in particular in various polymer (PVC/non-PVC) applications (such as floor covering or primary packaging of medicinal products), and as a component of various preparations such as adhesives or paints.

The background information on the methods and approaches as provided by ECHA is given here.

Just as a reminder: in December 2008 ECHA ended the pre-registration phase, in which dossiers for around 150 000 chemicals were received. That means, that at the moment roughly 0.005% of the pre-registered chemicals are subject to authorisation…


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The ”cocktail effect” is one of the main challenges in chemical regulation, EU Commissioner Stavros Dimas says

The Helsinki Chemicals Forum has organised a conference in May 2009. In his opening speech EU Commissioner for the Environment, Stavros Dimas said that

While REACH considers the effects of single substances, the fact is that we are most commonly exposed to a cocktail of many different substances. This is an area in which important gaps remain in terms of knowledge and assessment. These gaps need to be closed in the coming years.

I couldn’ agree more.

Other challenges that were specifically mentioned included endocrine disrupters and nanotechnology. No surprises there.

The whole transcript of the talk is downloadable as a PDF here. There is also a video of the speech online.

On a slightly different subject: from where I’m sitting, the website is a good example of how not to put together a site for the dissemination of (scientific) information. Simply because it does not provide any background information whatsoever on who is behind this “Helsinki Chemicals Forum”. How is one supposed to assess the quality, reliability and possible bias in the informations presented on the site? Of course, the names of the individual presenters speak for themselves, but it would still be nice to get an idea of who organised the event, why and what the long-term goals are.

When you are lucky, you manage to find the small “Organizer” button, where it then simply states:

HCF (the Helsinki Chemicals Forum) is organised by the Chemicals Forum Association, with partners such as City of Helsinki, European Chemical Agency, Chemical Industry Federation of Finland and University of Helsinki

How much does that tell? I would like to have seen a website of this “Chemical Forum Association”, a contact email, some names… So that I can make up my mind of the agenda of the Forum. Google’ing helps a bit – but why the heck do I have to hunt down those informations, instead of having them presented to me?

Here is some more information. And what do you find?

The organising power behind Helsinki Chemicals Forum is a non-profit organisation Chemicals Forum Association. The city of Helsinki, European Chemicals Agency, the Finnish Chemical Industry Association and Helsinki University are important partners of the Forum.

Great – still no solid information. Not even a full list of the partners behind the Forum, only the “important” ones (makes one wonder what makes an “unimportant” partner). And when you click on the provided link on the bottom of the page ( you are simply transferred back to the conference site itself (which seems to be run by the conference center).

Some room for improvement…


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