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Tuesday, 13 February, 2001, 13:08 GMT
Health threats of untested chemicals
Hazardous chemicals sign
Untested chemicals in the body could be damaging health
The average human body is accumulating more than 300 artificial chemicals - many of which could be damaging our health.

According to a new report many of the chemicals have never been tested and the effects of these on long term health are not known.

A European Commission White paper warns that without further research they cannot say whether the chemicals are affecting health.

And they are calling for the thousands of untested chemicals to be assessed with those posing health risks removed.

For too long we have been treating both our planet and our bodies like a giant chemical set, and it is time to stop

Chris Davies, MEP

The Commission has warned that the potential health risks could include cancers, birth defects, allergies, asthma, skin disorders and a disruption of the hormonal system.

They are also concerned that a rise in testicular and breast cancer could be linked to the cocktail of chemicals.

Immediate action

The European Commission adds that chemicals could also pose dangers for wild life.

Environment groups are calling for immediate action to combat the problem.

Current rules requiring the production of safety data for man-made chemicals were only introduced in 1981 - this means that about 3,000 now used daily across the European Union might never have been tested.

Liberal Democrat MEP Chris Davies, an environmental spokesman in Europe said priority must be given to testing those chemicals which are known to accumulate in the body.

These include musks and perfumes added to household products, flame retardants in furniture and plastic softeners used in PVC and toys.

He said safety data is only available for 14% of the most produced chemicals in Europe and said it is now time for change.

"For too long we have been treating both our planet and our bodies like a giant chemical set, and it is time to stop.

"A deadline needs to be set for assessing the risks of every chemical in daily use and banning those which fail the tests.

"The process will take years, but the sooner we start the better," he said.

Crucial changes

Friends of the Earth, World Wildlife Fund and European Environmental Bureau (EEB), said a tough new chemicals policy is "crucial for a sustainable Europe."

John Hontelez, EEB Secretary General, said: "The chemicals review is potentially the most far reaching environmental policy of this decade, although it is long over due."

A spokesman for Friends of the Earth said he wanted to see changes instituted as soon as possible.

"The next few months and years will be crucial in the battle to get a tough regulatory system," he said.

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