It will collect details for an impact assessment on different criteria and regulatory decision making.
Chemicals with endocrine disrupting properties are an issue of controversy, an example being bisphenol A (BPA) used in food and beverage packaging, and they may be found in the environment after use.
Legislation for biocidal and plant protection products requires the Commission to specify scientific criteria to determine endocrine-disrupting properties of chemical substances.
Impact assessment needed
Because of the potential socio-economic impacts linked to how criteria will be defined and the complexity of the issue, the Commission said it needs to carry out an impact assessment.
Until the new criteria are set, protective interim ones are in place.
Policy options being considered include no change so the interim criteria will continue to apply.
The World Health Organization (WHO) and International Programme on Chemical Safety (IPCS) definition to identify endocrine disruptors or the use of this definition with additional categories based on strength of evidence or the use of this definition and inclusion of potency as element of hazard characterization.
The Commission said the usual consultation period of 12 weeks has been extended to allow stakeholders sufficient time.
It is open until 16 January 2015 (click here for all the details) and replies will be published following its closure.
Janez Potočnik, European Commissioner for the Environment, said the criteria are needed to improve protection and give industry the certainty it requires.
"Endocrine disrupting chemicals have triggered a substantial debate: there are strong signals from science, there is increasing public and political concern and awareness, while some stakeholders still have doubts.”
Endocrine disruptors are chemicals that interfere with hormone systems, which may lead to harmful effects on health and the environment – BPA used in polycarbonate plastic and as an epoxy resin is one example.
Lisette van Vliet, senior policy advisor, chemicals and chronic disease prevention at the Health and Environment Alliance (HEAL) said the public consultation was long awaited.
“We’re happy the consultation has started, but less so that that the public, who are exposed to EDCs and suffer endocrine-related diseases such as cancer, reproductive problems, neurological disorders and obesity and diabetes, are being de facto excluded by the predominant focus on ‘impact assessment (IA) data’.
“The public health consequences, possibly to the tune of €31bn per year in the EU 28, are too important to leave this only to experts and IA data.”
Chem Trust said there are EU laws in place that can restrict EDC use but they will only work if there is agreement on how to decide if a chemical is an EDC.
“It’s particularly good news that this consultation is launching in the week that the Environment & Health Commissioners-nominate are having their hearings in the European Parliament.
“This should help ensure that endocrine disruption is viewed as priority for new Commission.
“We will look at consultation closely and we hope that this consultation can help ensure that this important issue is addressed urgently.”
The group said it is not just an issue for governments, adding companies should already be using available information to avoid using chemicals with endocrine disrupting properties.
The Commission also wants feedback on the approaches to regulatory decision making.
It proposes no change in the process, introduction of further elements of risk assessment or introduction of further socio-economic considerations, including risk-benefit analysis.