This type of legal decision is rare. On 16 December last, the General Court of the European Union sentenced the European Commission for “having failed in its obligations” regarding endocrine disruptors.
The Commission did not comply with the deadline of 13 December 2013, set by Regulation No. 528/2012 on biocides, for the adoption of “scientific criteria for determining properties disrupting the endocrine system”. This sentence followed a request filed by Sweden on 4 July 2014 with the European Court of Justice in order to show that the Commission, by not ruling on this issue within the allotted deadlines, violated the European Regulation. Denmark, Finland, France and the Netherlands joined the Swedish initiative, and were also joined by the European Council and the European Parliament.
Following a period of public consultation, the Commission’s Environment DG had submitted to the stakeholders, European MPs and Member States the definition of the criteria for identification of endocrine disruptors. At the same time, it had launched an impact study on these criteria, which delayed decision making, an argument that it put forward to the European Court. But the Court considered this argument unacceptable: “no provision of the Regulation [of 2012] requires such an impact study”.
This sentence should make it possible to accelerate the materialization of a European definition of endocrine disruptors, with the Commission now being obliged to act “within a reasonable period”.
At the international level, there are various definitions of endocrine disruptors, which are the subject of debate. The most commonly accepted definition is that proposed by the World Health Organization in 2002: “A potential endocrine disruptor is an exogenous substance or mixture that possesses properties that might be expected to lead to endocrine disruption in an intact organism, or its progeny, or (sub)populations.” Some endocrine disruptors are of natural origin, while others, present in pesticides, electronic devices, personal hygiene products and cosmetics, are synthetic. Certain food additives or contaminants present in food are also liable to disrupt the endocrine system.