EU-experts agree pesticide may damage unborn children

There are no safe levels for exposure to the pesticides chlorpyrifos and chlorpyrifos-methyl, EU-experts have found. An EU-ban of the criticised pesticides comes closer.

Experts from EU-member states and staff members at EFSA (European Food Safety Agency) have published an unusual statement on two controversial pesticides, believed to cause brain damage on children whose mothers have been exposed during pregnancy.

The pesticides do not meet the criteria for a renewed approval, EFSA announced 2 August in a statement. The present approvals expire in January 2020.

First time ever EFSA publish preliminary findings

Talking to Norwegian daily Dagbladet a EFSA spokesperson says this is the first time ever EFSA publishes preliminary findings by experts before an ongoing peer-review has been finalised. This unprecedented move was triggered by a request from the EU-commission 1 July, following pressure from NGOs and publicity by the journalist team behind ”Chlorpyrifos – the unknown pesticide” initiated by Investigative Reporting Denmark .

According to the experts, genotoxic potential for chlorpyrifos cannot be ruled out. They suggest the label ”may damage unborn child” to be appropriate. All in all, criteria applicable to human health are not met, a 28-page long statement summarises.

Based on what they call a conservatively based approach, the experts come to the same conclusion for the closely related chlorpyrifos-methyl. All experts but one (not identified) agreed to that.

Not the final word: Decision comes later

Although seemingly clear in the message and unprecedented in form, the two statements are not yet the final word. A renewed approval, or a ban of the pesticides will in the end not be decided by EFSA, but by a standing committee of representatives from EU-member states and the Commission after yet another meeting of experts scheduled in September.

A proposed final decision in believe to be published in October and voted on by the committee in December.

Conclusion of preliminary proposal kept secret

Preliminary proposals on the future for chlorpyrifos and chlorpyrifos-methyl have been shared among member states’ experts since 2017 but not released to the public. A request for access submitted to the proposal by this reporter was turned down by EFSA as late as 27 July and by the Swedish Supreme Court of Administration in May this year.

In both cases the denial of access was motivated by objections from Spain, acting as reporting member state on the future of the two pesticides.

Spain is a heavy user of the pesticides El Confidencial Spanish contributor to the journalists’ investigation has shown.

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