This month, Breast Cancer UK joined with 26 Public Health and Environmental NGO’s to call for actions that ensure the future UK Chemicals strategy delivers strong and effective public protections from harmful chemicals. 

Strong chemical regulations are vital for our health and environment 

Following the UK’s departure from the European Union, the Government promised, as part of its 25-year Environment Planto deliver a chemicals strategy this spring that will set out the UK’s approach to managing chemicals that have the potential to cause harm to public health and the environment. Yet current regulations are failing to protect us!   

Chemical regulationdetermine which chemicals can be used in everyday products and can ultimately end up in our environment. This includes authorising or restricting chemicals which may cause cancer, are toxic, and/or interfere with our endocrine (or hormone) system. Breast Cancer UK has long been concerned that exposure to these chemicals is increasing our vulnerability to breast cancer. 

Exposure to harmful chemicals can have detrimental health effects! 

Synthetic chemicals play a vital role in everyday life, they can be found in many products that we use regularly from cleaning to cosmetics and skin products. Most of us aren’t aware that these chemicals can enter our bodies through the food and drink we consume the air we breathe and the creams, soaps, perfumes and toothpastes we absorb through our skin. Often, however, we take the safety of chemicals for granted, forgetting the potential risks of certain chemicals to our health 

Sadly, this means we expose ourselves to a cocktail of chemicals throughout our daily lives. From bisphenols in plastics, phthalates in cosmetics, flame retardants in furniture to PFAS in food packaging. These chemicals, known as endocrine disrupting chemicals (EDCs), are of particular concern as they can not only impact our health but also the health of subsequent generations.  

Many diseases have been linked to EDC exposure, including breast and prostate cancers, obesity, diabetes, and reproductive problems. For example, Bisphenol A (BPA) is an EDC used in food and drink packaging and has been linked to increased breast cancer risk. There is mounting scientific evidence that exposure to BPA can affect how breast tissue develops and can make breast cells more cancerous or malignant. BPA was identified as a substance of concern by the EU in 2017. 

Whilst we can all take actions to avoid harmful chemicals it is ultimately the responsibility of Government and industry to deliver safe products and a clean environment. Yetcurrent regulations are slow and inconsistent, and it can take years to restrict or ban harmful chemical 

What will post-Brexit chemical regulations look like? 

For years, UK citizens have benefitted from environmental and public health protections through the EU chemicals regulation ‘REACH’. Whilst not perfect, this regulation is considered the ‘global standard’ and has led to the restriction of numerous chemicals linked to breast cancer including BPA in baby bottles and till receipts and formaldehyde in cosmetics.  

With Brexit, the UK left this systemsetting up a UK only system for regulating harmful chemicals known as UK REACHSadly, in recent weeks we have seen attempts by representatives of the Chemicals industry to weaken UK REACH by relaxing rules on supplying safety data Equally concerning, in March, the Government confirmed that the UK will match only two of the EU’s 13 proposed restrictions, excluding action on substances such as microplastics.   

These developments are alarming as they risk the UK becoming a dumping group for harmful chemicals. This, despite assurances from Ministers that standards would go up not down. Such an outcome will undermine efforts to prevent breast cancer and other diseases 

The way forward to protect public health 

A comprehensive approach to preventing disease must take into account the role that chemicals play in human disease when they interact with our bodies.. The EU’s recently published  Chemicals Strategy for Sustainability” and ‘Beating Cancer Plan both committed to banning EDCs in consumer products and reducing exposure to carcinogens.  

In contrast and despite mounting scientific evidence, UK public health and cancer plans don’t even mention the need to reduce public exposure to harmful chemicals. This is fundamentally wrong and weakens our battle to prevent diseases such as breast cancer. 

The government’s approach to prevention remains flawedThis sad fact has also been recognised by the former Chief Medical Officer, the Environmental Audit Committee, and Royal College of Obstetricians and GynaecologistsIncreasingly, the public are also demanding actionA recent survey found that 85% of UK respondents were worried about the impact of harmful chemicals on human health. 

The UK Chemicals strategy provides a golden opportunity to right this wrongThat’s why we’re calling on the UK Chemicals Strategy to:  

  • Commit to ban EDCs and suspected EDCs within consumer products.  
  • Give Public Health bodies direct responsibilities to monitor, research and propose restrictions on harmful chemicals.  
  • Mirror and keep pace with EU controls on chemicals to ensure we maintain public protections from harmful chemicals.  

To protect public health and the environment, keeping harmful chemicals out of our daily lives must be treated as a post-Brexit priority! 

Further Reading 

NGO’s: 12 Key Asks for UK Chemicals Strategy  

Joint Letter to Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs George Eustice MP

Reduce your risk: Chemicals and Environment Pages 

Background Briefing: Endocrine Disrupting Chemicals 

Related Articles

28 August 2021

How to be organic on a budget

September is Organic Month. When we think of organic, we usually think of food and avoiding the pesticides used to grow fruit and vegetables. But there are other ways we...

Read full story

30 July 2021

Top up your Vitamin D this summer

Having a low level of vitamin D is linked with breast cancer. Making sure you have a healthy level of Vitamin D is a great way to stay well and...

Read full story

23 July 2021

Microplastics and breast cancer: could there be a link?

Microplastics are often in the news these days. They are mostly discussed in terms of pollution of the natural environment, particularly the oceans. In this blog, we consider some specific...

Read full story

19 July 2021

Constant exposure carries long-term health consequences

"If you're going to buy drinks, buy them in glass bottles rather than plastic bottles, avoid canned food, and refuse thermal till receipts ... simple things can help minimise our...

Read full story

A £10 donation today will help fund our research into the causes of breast cancer so we can prevent breast cancer for future generations.


Donate £10

A donation of £25 can go toward IT support which helps us deliver live webinars on the risk factors associated with breast cancer and practical tips that help people reduce their risk

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