Manifesto Pledge 2: Regulation of Chemicals | Breast Cancer UK

Manifesto Pledge 2: Regulation of Chemicals

Improve regulation of chemicals based on the precautionary principle

Breast Cancer UK is calling for the regulation of chemicals to be strengthened and improved, based on the precautionary principle, to pro-actively protect public health. 

Further research to help us understand what causes breast cancers is important, but it should not be used as an excuse to delay regulatory action and preventative measures, that if taken now, could protect public health and save lives. Most chemicals used in every day products have not been adequately tested for adverse health effects. Of those that have, some have been found to build up in our bodies, to affect hormones, disrupt DNA and cause changes in cells in ways that are linked to an increased risk of breast cancers.  There is sufficient evidence to warrant precautionary action and tougher regulation of certain chemicals.

The European Union’s main system for regulating hazardous chemicals (called REACH) is so far acting very slowly to phase out chemicals of concern. Their current procedures for testing chemicals is inadequate for identifying all EDCs.  Furthermore, REACH does not sufficiently regulate certain chemicals which have been found to cause cancer, damage DNA, and impair reproduction [1,2].  In some instances, manufacturers have not provided all available data when applying for a chemical’s registration [3].  This could mean that chemicals which are suspected of causing adverse health effects and have been linked to breast cancers in independent studies may continue to be used in everyday products. 

We welcome the European Parliament’s support for urgent action on EDCs adopted in March 2013 [4] and are encouraged by the fact that a number of EU countries are taking unilateral action to ban specific hazardous chemicals, in an effort to help protect the health of their public.  However, there is significant counter-pressure from certain industries and manufacturers, as well as some countries, particularly the UK, that oppose tighter regulation of chemicals of concern, preferring to prioritise profit over prevention.  Breast Cancer UK urges the next UK Government to prioritise primary prevention of breast cancer by supporting a robust, precautionary approach that acknowledges the latest developments in scientific knowledge and prioritises public health. 

Breast Cancer UK is calling for:

  • The next UK Government to honour its commitment to the precautionary principle, prioritise public health over commercial interests and support measures to phase out chemicals that are linked to breast cancers.
  • The next UK Government to support an extension of EU Article 60 (3) of the REACH Regulation, to ensure EDCs are, by default, classed as Substances of Very High Concern (SVHC), for which no safe thresholds can be determined[5];
  • The UK Government to actively promote the use and development of safer alternatives to hazardous substances. 

Back to 'Prevention is better than cure'


[1] For example, ChemSec’s SIN (Substitute It Now) List 2.1 consists of 626 chemicals that they identified as Substances of Very High Concern, based on criteria established by the EU chemical regulation. The European Commission has indicated that it will consider substances on this list for placement on their candidate list. For further details see

[2] For a the ‘Candidate List of Substances of Very High Concern for Authorisation’ see European Chemicals Agency (ECHA) at (Accessed 14th April 2015)

[3] Client Earth (2013). ‘REACH registration and endocrine disrupting chemicals’  (Accessed 14th April 2015)

[4] The European Parliament voted to adopt MEP Asa Westlund’s report on the “Protection of public health from endocrine disruptors” (2012/2066(INI)) in March 2013 see for further information. (Accessed 14th April 2015)

[5] See also ‘CHEM Trust’s FAQs on Endocrine Disrupting Chemicals and EU regulation on EDCs (Accessed April 14th, 2015)

Help us prevent breast cancer Make a donation now