Court says EU Commission acted illegally in drafting chemicals rules

BRUSSELS - Europe’s second-highest court on Wednesday found the European Commission had broken EU law by failing to set out the scientific criteria for defining harmful chemicals when it drafted rules on the subject two years ago.

The Luxembourg-based General Court said the EU executive had an obligation to do so, backing a Swedish challenge against the Commission’s failure to act despite concerns raised by Swedish and Danish authorities.

Sweden and Denmark feared the absence of any scientific standards could lead to the sale of toxic or carcinogenic products.

“By failing to adopt measures concerning the specification of scientific criteria for the determination of endocrine-disrupting properties, the Commission has breached EU law,” judges said.

The biocidal products regulation sets out the rules on what kind of chemicals can be sold in the 28-country bloc, an attempt by the Commission, the EU executive, to strike a balance between the benefits of bug-busting chemicals on the one hand and public health and environmental protection on the other.

The Commission said it took note of the court ruling and that it was already conducting a study on the issue.

“The objective is to conclude the impact assessment in 2016. The decision-making concerning the criteria for identifying endocrine disruptors will follow thereafter,” a spokeswoman said.

Lobbying group Pesticide Action Network Europe welcomed the verdict.

“Biocides are also used in households either as insecticides or wood and textile preservatives and disinfectants, which means that pregnant women, young children and babies, who are the most vulnerable to the exposure of endocrine disruptors are exposed to these chemicals in their daily lives,” the group’s toxicologist, Angeliki Lyssimachou, said.