Endocrine disruptors are chemicals - both natural and man-made - that impact on animal and human hormone systems. They are suspected to be linked to issue such as reproductive problems, breast cancer and developmental issues in children, according to the World Health Organization.

The commission, the European Union's executive, was supposed to propose new guidelines by 2013, but delayed its decision. The issue has been closely watched by health and environmental groups, as well as the agricultural and chemical industry.

"Endocrine disruptors can have serious health and environmental impacts," European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker said in a statement. "Even if many substances containing them are already banned ... we have to remain vigilant."

The commission proposed that substances should be classified as endocrine disruptors based on all relevant scientific evidence, and depending on how hazardous the chemical is, irrespective of the actual risk of exposure.

It also drafted comparable recommendations for endocrine disruptors found in biocides that destroy fungi or bacteria. These substances are used for more than just plant control, in products ranging from hand disinfectants to cleaning fluids and insect poison.

But the commission's proposed criteria were roundly criticized.

Organizations representing the pesticides, chemicals and plastics industries argued that the risk of exposure should be taken into account.

Failing to do so could "lead to bans of crop protection products with the same endocrine-disrupting properties found in everyday products like coffee," said Jean-Charles Bocquet, the director of the European Crop Protection Association.

"The dose makes the poison," added conservative EU lawmaker Jens Giseke, while farming association Copa & Cogeca argued that the new restrictions would put European farmers at risk without protecting consumers from imported products treated with endocrine disruptors.

But Green EU lawmaker Bas Eickhout said the proposed criteria were too narrow and allowed for broad exemptions, and accused the commission of putting "the bottom line of a few agro-chemical companies ahead of public health." 

The criteria set an "unrealistically high burden of proof to show these toxics harm people, which is almost impossible to meet," added Vito Buonsante, a lawyer for the ClientEarth environmental group.

The proposals - which only lay out how to identify endocrine disruptors, not how to regulate them - must now be considered by EU member states and the European Parliament, while countries importing products to the EU will also be consulted.

The commission asked the relevant EU regulators, the European Food Safety Authority and the European Chemicals Agency, to examine what approved substances would contain endocrine disruptors under the new criteria, in preparation for when they enter into force.

Related stories

Latest news

Syrian opposition rules out future role for President al-Assad

The Syrian opposition said Friday it would not accept any role for President Bashar al-Assad in the future of the war-torn country, reacting to a recent US shift saying that removing al-Assad is no longer a priority for Washington.

Russian Army integrates breakaway forces of Georgian province

Parts of the small fighting forces of the Georgian breakaway province of South Ossetia have been placed under Russian military control, Russian Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu said on Friday.

Czech Republic's Pilsner Urquell beer is now Japanese

Japanese brewing company Asahi completed its takeover of the Czech brewery Pilsner Urquell on Friday, Asahi said in a statement.

Judge approves 25-million-dollar settlement of Trump University case

A US district judge on Friday approved a 25-million-dollar settlement of lawsuits and state fraud allegations against Trump University, the US president's now-defunct business venture.

Former Thai premier Thaksin to junta on reconciliation: 'Cut me out'

Former Thai prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra on Friday announced that he is not interested in the junta-led reconciliation process, three days after the junta handed him a half-a-billion-dollar tax bill for his past business deal.

Dalic: We welcome possible deal between Agrokor and banks

The government welcomes the possibility of an agreement being concluded between the Agrokor food company and creditor banks, and the bill on vitally important companies is not a fallback plan but the result of the government's care for the overall economic and financial stability of Croatia, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Economy Martina Dalic told a press conference in Zagreb on Friday.

Croatia, China sign action plan for cooperation in agriculture

The Croatian and Chinese ministries of agriculture on Friday signed an action plan for cooperation in the field of agriculture for the period 2017-2018, the Croatian ministry said in a statement.

ZSE indices up, Agrokor shares in focus of investor interest

The Zagreb Stock Exchange (ZSE) indices on Friday rose by more than 1.8%, with stocks of the Agrokor food and retail concern being in the focus of investor interest again.

Berlin police defend handling of Berlin market attacker

Berlin police defended themselves on Friday against accusations that they stopped surveillance on Berlin Christmas market attacker despite knowing in June 2016 he was dangerous.

Croatia, creditors tailor emergency measures to save tottering giant

Croatia's tottering retail and food giant Agrokor reached an agreement with its creditors, putting its debts standby and allowing it to continue working during emergency restructuring, the Croatian branch of Austria's Erste Bank said Friday.

Agrokor's creditors say standstill agreement to go into force today

A standstill agreement regarding the Agrokor concern's existing financial obligations to banks will take effect on Friday, additional capital will be injected into the concern in the coming days and the concern will be actively restructured, which includes a change of its management, it was said on Friday after a meeting between Agrokor's suppliers and creditor banks.

Palestinians, UN slam Israel's new settlement plan

Palestinians, Israeli activists and the UN lambasted the government of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Friday, a day after it gave the go-ahead for the first new West Bank settlement in a quarter of a century.

South Sudan rebels release three abducted foreign oil workers

South Sudanese rebels have released three foreign engineers they abducted in early March in the oil-rich Upper Nile region, Foreign Affairs Ministry official Mawein Makol Arik said on Friday.

Turkish opposition: Imprisoned party chief has gone on hunger strike

The head of Turkey's pro-Kurdish opposition party has launched a hunger strike from prison.

European leagues threaten Champions League schedule clashes

The European Professional Football Leagues (EPFL) on Friday threatened schedule clashes on Champions League matchdays in an ongoing dispute with the governing body UEFA.

Danish court revokes citizenship of IS volunteer

A Danish appellate court on Friday stripped a man of his Danish citizenship for volunteering to fight for the extremist Islamic State in Syria.

Banks and Agrokor agree on key elements of standstill agreement

Member banks of the coordinating committee of financial creditors and representatives of the Agrokor food company have in principle agreed on key elements of a standstill agreement, which is expected to be signed later today, announcing changes in the company's management team, Erste Bank said in a statement on Friday afternoon.

Syrian man on trial in Sweden; mosque attack labelled terrorism

A Syrian man went on trial Friday in the southern Swedish city of Malmo, charged with terrorism and arson after an attack last year on a building used as an assembly hall by Shiite Muslims.