Everybody is exposed to EDCs

Together with the Institute for Environmental Studies (IVM) of the VU University Amsterdam, Wemos studied urine samples of four Dutch politicians to determine whether they had been exposed to the endocrine-disrupting chemicals (EDCs) BPA and phthalates. In the Dutch TV programme Radar, Wemos’ global health advocate Annelies den Boer showed them the results of the test: all four had indeed been exposed to BPA and phthalates.

The Dutch politicians (of political parties PvdA (Labor Party), GroenLinks (Green Party), SP (Socialist Party), PvdD (Party for the Animals)) were shocked by the result of the test. Most thought of themselves as having healthy lifestyles by eating organic products, not using plastic food containers, and reading labels. Despite all this, the test showed that reducing or limiting exposure to EDCs is extremely difficult, nearly impossible. The test even found DEHP – a phthalate that the EU has listed as a Substance of Very High Concern – in all four politicians.


Ubiquitous presence

The outcome of the test is similar to that of other European and American studies, which revealed that basically everyone is exposed to EDCs – on a day-to-day basis – due to their ubiquitous presence. Exposure can result in health problems in the long run. Unborn and young children are especially vulnerable.


Not amused

‘I’ve known about this issue for a long time now. I really do my best: I read most labels, I try not to use plastic food containers. So I’m surprised that you still managed to find something after all,’ says Liesbeth van Tongeren (GroenLinks MP). Marianne Thieme (PvdD MP) is confronted by the test result: ‘It is confronting to see that you’ve been exposed to all EDCs that can be tested. And even the substances that Brussels has categorized as being of high concern. Brussels is usually fairly lenient, so knowing that this case is an exception is very shocking.’ Anne-Marie Mineur (SP MEP) is not amused by the test result: ‘These chemicals have been found in my urine. I thought I had a healthy lifestyle, but this is apparently not the case – or at least, it is not healthy enough. Apparently, the chemicals are consumed after all. I don’t like this.’


National plan for EDCs

Wemos wants the Dutch government to implement a national plan for harmful substances, similar to France and Denmark. Such a plan would include, for example, biomonitoring programs and a ban on the use of BPA in food contact materials, which Belgium and the USA already have. ‘Countries such as Denmark already have a national plan. As the Netherlands has seen an increase in hormone-related diseases, like breast and prostate cancer, it is all the more important to follow this example,’ says Annelies den Boer.


Watch the RADAR programme (Dutch)

Read more about what Wemos does on harmful substances

We have a new factsheet on EDCs (Dutch)


Recent News items

International Health Regulations should focus on health systems


The implementation of the International Health Regulations should focus on strengthening health systems.  This was the main message of the statement that Wemos’ global health advocate Renée de Jong delivered on behalf of Medicus Mundi International and People’s Health Movement at this year’s 70th World Health Assembly in Geneva.

The statement addressed the concerns of Medicus Mundi International (MMI) and People’s Health Movement (PHM) about the focus on global health security in implementing the International Health Regulations (IHR). These regulations, which are legally binding, are an international framework on which countries have agreed to cooperate to protect against and respond to public health crises.


Global public goods

The organizations are concerned about the current narrow focus in the IHR on surveillance, and on protecting high-income countries from outbreaks from low- and middle-income countries. Rather, strengthening the capacity of health systems in low- and middle-income countries should be more prominent in the IHR.


‘Instead of a narrow focus on surveillance, the implementation of IHRs should be accompanied by measures to strengthen the capacity of health systems in LMICs. Fragile health system should not be further undermined through onerous conditions placed on them as a requirement for the implementation of IHRs. IHRs need to be viewed as global public goods and their implementation needs to include support to LMICs, including financial support and technology transfer, directed at building capacity of health systems.’


The World Health Assembly takes place each year; at this year’s 70th edition, the new WHO Director-General was elected.


Read the entire statement

Read more about Wemos and Health Systems Partnership

Read a blog by Fran Quigly (Indiana University McKinney School of Law) on WHO Watchers’ criticism on WHO budget approval at WHA70

Follow the WHA on Global Health Watch

WHO elects a new director-general


This week marks the 70th annual meeting of member states of the World Health Organization (WHO) in Geneva. At this 70th World Health Assembly, the WHO will also elect a new director-general. The Dutch magazine Medisch Contact spoke with Wemos’ director Mariëlle Bemelmans about what type of leader the WHO needs.

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