Breast Cancer UK calls on Government to give the new National Institute for Health Protection responsibilities to regulate harmful chemicals

Today, Breast Cancer UK alongside our friends at ChemTrust, Alliance for Cancer Prevention, Women’s Environment Network and Pesticide Action Network have sent a joint letter to Health Secretary Matt Hancock calling for urgent action to address the impact of harmful chemicals on the nation’s health.

In August, Matt Hancock announced that the new National Institute for Health Protection (NIHP) would take over the responsibilities of Public Health England in driving the prevention of ill-health. Breast Cancer UK is calling for the NIHP to have direct responsibilities to monitor, research and regulate harmful chemicals to protect public health.

Today’s joint letter calls for urgent action to reduce public exposure to harmful chemicals linked to increased breast cancer and other serious health problems. This includes banning or restricting chemicals which may cause cancer, are toxic, and interfere with our endocrine (or hormone) system. These chemicals, known as endocrine disrupting chemicals or EDCs, are of particular concern as they may impact not only on our health but those of future generations.

According to the UN’s Global Chemicals Outlook, harmful chemicals such as EDCs are now “ubiquitous in humans and the environment”. EDCs found in everyday products end up in all of us – children and adults alike – contaminating our bodies without our consent or knowledge. We ingest them through food and drink, inhale them in the air we breathe and absorb them through our skin. Risk from harmful chemicals is often exacerbated when exposure occurs to especially vulnerable groups including infants, children and pregnant women.

The letter highlights how such chemicals, even at low concentrations, trigger chemical reactions in the body that increase our chances of suffering from chronic and lethal diseases. Diseases including hormone dependant cancers such as breast cancer, reproductive problems, developmental effects, and neuro-behavioural problems.

Despite mounting scientific evidence, public health and cancer prevention strategies, have failed to address environmental pollutants leading to a gap in cancer prevention policy, which weakens our battle to prevent disease. In sharp contrast, the EU has developed its own ‘Chemicals Strategy for Sustainability’ and ‘Beating Cancer plan, both of which contain legislative commitments to address EDCs and carcinogens.

Responding to this joint letter, Thalie Martini Chief Executive of Breast Cancer UK said:

“Breast Cancer UK is proud to join leading charities and expert researchers in calling on the Department of Health to give the new National Institute for Health Protection responsibilities for monitoring, researching and proposing restrictions on harmful chemicals.

For years, we have been very concerned that public exposure to harmful chemicals, in particular hormone disrupting chemicals, is increasing our vulnerability to breast cancer.

The truth is, we are exposed to a cocktail of chemicals throughout our daily lives. From bisphenols in plastics, phthalates in personal care products, flame retardants in furniture to PFAS in food packaging and toxic pesticides, the scientific evidence has mounted showing the chemical burden we are all vulnerable to. Despite this, public health and cancer strategies have failed to acknowledge this.

This omission is unacceptable and weakens our battle to prevent disease. It’s time for public health plans and cancer strategies to acknowledge the evidence and address the impact of harmful chemicals on the nation’s health. As the UK leaves the EU transition period and prepares to develop its own chemicals regime, we urge the Department of Health and DEFRA to work together to keep harmful chemicals out of our daily lives to protect public health and the environment.”

It’s time for the UK Government to develop its own action plan to support a non-toxic environment. Maintaining and enhancing public health and environmental protections from harmful chemicals linked to breast cancer must be treated as a post-Brexit priority!

Further Reading

To find out more about our current latest campaign work please follow this link here

For more information on the links between EDCs and breast cancer see our background reading section here

Read Breast Cancer UK’s response to the Departments of Health’s Prevention Green Paper.

Read Department for Heath & Social Care’ Policy Paper: The Future of Public health: The National Institute for Health Protection and other public health functions.

Read Environmental Audit Committee’s Report on Toxic Chemicals in Everyday Life.

Related Articles

30 March 2021

Pesticide Action Week: Pesticides and breast cancer risk

To celebrate Pesticide Action Week, Dr Robin Mesnage, a Research Associate at Kings College and member of Breast Cancer UK's Scientific Review Panel investigates the links between pesticides and breast...

Read full story

10 March 2021

2020 – A challenging yet productive year for our research

While 2020 brought us many unexpected challenges, it also brought exciting developments! Initial results from the research you helped fund have identified new techniques that will improve investigations of bisphenols...

Read full story

1 February 2021

Meet the Scientists: Freya Leif

As part of our interview series, Meet the Scientists, we caught up with PhD student Freya Leif, who is at Leeds University working on a Breast Cancer UK funded research...

Read full story

14 December 2020

Celebrate a loved one

This year, I’m taking part in Breast Cancer UK’s 'Celebrate a Loved One' with a dedication to my sister, Wendy. "I'm immensely proud of my sister. In addition...

Read full story

A donation of just £10 can help us reach women with educational information and guidance on how they can reduce their chances of getting breast cancer.

Donate £10

A donation of £25 can help provide a Breast Cancer Prevention kit to help our Ambassadors deliver talks, providing healthy lifestyle advice and practical tips that can help people reduce their risk of breast cancer.

Donate £25

Your donation of £100 can help train one of our PhD students, who work on vital research which aims to understand the causes of breast cancer and identify risk factors.

Donate £100

Just want to help in some way? donate an amount that feels right for you

Start Your Donation

Donate Now

Make a Donation


My One Time Donation

I want to make a one time donation of

Thank you. You’re just a few steps away from completing your donation.

+25% with Gift Aid

If you are a UK taxpayer, the value of your gift can be increased by 25% under the Gift Aid scheme at no extra cost to you.

This means that your donation of £100.00 could be worth an extra £25.00 to us, and it doesn't cost you a penny!

My Monthly Donation

I want to make a monthly donation

You’re just a few steps away from completing your donation.

+25% with Gift Aid

If you are a UK taxpayer, the value of your gift can be increased by 25% under the Gift Aid scheme at no extra cost to you.

This means that your donation of £100.00 could be worth an extra £25.00 to us, and it doesn't cost you a penny!

One Time Donation Monthly Donation
Make a donation with Gift Aid

Gift Aid is reclaimed by the Breast Cancer UK from the tax that I pay for the current tax year. If I pay less Income Tax and/or Capital Gains Tax than the amount of Gift Aid claimed on all my donations, it is my responsibility to pay any difference. Breast Cancer UK will reclaim 25p in tax back for every £1 I donate.

Your payment details

Your donation amount

Donation Allocation (Optional)

Additional Comments (Optional)

Stay in Touch

We’d love to keep you posted on how your support can make a difference to Breast Cancer UK and the exciting ways you can support us in the future.

Please tick if you’re happy to receive information from us by:

By completing an online donation, your data will be handled in accordance with the Breast Cancer UK’s privacy policy, and the privacy policy of our payment processing supplier BBMS (a Blackbaud company).

Thank You Wall

If you donate over £50, as a way of saying thank you for your donation, we would like to feature your donation on our virtual thank you wall on our website.

Donations will only feature on the wall for up to two months depending on the level of donations we receive.

You must fill out all required fields before paying.


Need help making your donation?

If you need help to make a donation or have any questions about making one, please contact us…

Call 08456801322