Endocrine disruptors

Endocrine disruptors are chemicals which impact on the hormone system of animals and humans. They have three cumulative characteristics: a hormonal function, an adverse effect, and a causality between the two.

There has been increasing interest in endocrine disruptors and the European Commission has produced a factsheet that answers some of the most common questions about these chemicals and their possible impact on human health and wellbeing.

For more information about endocrine disruptors on the europa.eu website

Health in the EU

A new initiative for 2016-17 ‘ State of Health in the EU‘ will bring together internationally recognised expertise to provide Member States with evidence on health that is relevant to their specific country and that can help maximise the effectiveness, accessibility and resilience of their health systems.

There are four components to this initiative:

  • November 2016 the OECD report ‘Health at a Glance: Europe 2016‘ will be published
  • November 2017 the OECD will publish a set of 28 individual country¬† health profiles
  • November 2017 a Commission analysis will accompany these 28 profiles, giving each State an overview of the information in the first two documents, linking them to the broader EU agenda and emphasising cross-cutting policy implications
  • December 2017 onwards there will be exchanges between individual EU countries and the Commission, the OECD and the Observatory to discuss the implications and help States make the best use of the gathered evidence.

For more information on the State of Health in the EU on the ec.europa.eu website


Better protection against cancer-causing chemicals

Cancer is the first cause of work-related deaths in the EU, accounting for 53% of the total and therefore the single biggest health risk to workers in the European Union.

The Commission will improve workers protection by added new limit values in the Carcinogens and Mutagens Directive for 13 cancer-causing chemicals. These limit values set a maximum concentration for the presence of a chemical carcinogen in the workplace air. The proposal is based on scientific evidence and follows broad discussions with scientists, employers, workers, Member States’ representatives and labour inspectors.

Introducing these limit values will lead to fewer cases of occupational cancer. They will also promote consistency by defining a ‘level playing field’ for all users and a common objective for employers, workers and enforcement authorities. The proposal therefore leads to a more efficient system of workers’ health protection and improved fairness in the single market.

To read the factsheet on the 13 cancer-causing chemicals on the europa.eu website.

E-cigarettes harmful to health

Refillable electronic e-cigarettes, and the potential exposure to e-liquids containing nicotine, may pose risks to public health, according to a report recently adopted by the European Commission.

The report included input from an external study that analysed physical samples, scientific literature and data from poison centres in eight EU countries. The study also surveyed the e-cigarette industry on their perception of the risks.

The report found four main risks with refillable e-cigarettes:

  • poisoning from ingesting e-liquids containing nicotine (especially for young children);
  • skin reactions related to dermal contact with e-liquids containing nicotine and other skin irritants;
  • risks associated with home blending
  • risks due to using untested combinations of e-liquid and device or hardware customisation.

The report concludes that although the measures for refillable e-cigarettes set out in the Tobacco Products Directive and secondary legislation, combined with national regulation, provide an adequate and proportionate framework for mitigating health risks, further study of these products is needed.

To read the full report on the risks of electronic cigarettes on the eur-lex.europa.eu website


Code of Conduct for online hate

The European Commission together with Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and Microsoft have developed a code of conduct that includes a series of commitments to combat the spread of illegal hate speech online in Europe.

These IT companies recognise they share, together with other platforms and social media companies, a collective responsibility for promoting and facilitating freedom of expression throughout the online world. They also understand that the spread of illegal hate speech online not only negatively affects the groups or individuals that it targets, it also negatively impacts those who speak out for freedom, tolerance and non-discrimination in our open societies and has a chilling effect on the democratic discourse on online platforms.

In order to prevent the spread of illegal hate speech, it is essential to ensure that relevant national laws combating racism and xenophobia are fully enforced by Member States in the online as well as the in the offline environment.

By signing this code of conduct, the IT companies commit to continuing their efforts to tackle illegal hate speech online. They will also strengthen their ongoing partnerships with civil society organisations who will help flag content that promotes incitement to violence and hateful conduct.

To download the full Code of Conduct on the ec.europa.eu website.

10 key changes for tobacco products sold in the EU

As a result of EU legislation, there are 10 changes to the way tobacco products can be sold in Europe:

  • Graphic pictorial health warnings will cover 65% of the packaging
  • Ban on cigarettes and roll-your-own with characterising flavours such as menthol that mask the taste and smell of tobacco
  • Labelling will now include the fact that ‘tobacco smoke contains over 70 substances known to cause cancer’
  • No promotional or misleading packages and no packs of less than 10 cigarettes
  • Mandatory electronic reporting on ingredients by manufacturers and importers
  • Safety and quality requirements for e-cigarettes
  • Packaging and labelling rules for e-cigarettes
  • Monitoring and reporting of developments related to e-cigarettes
  • EU countries may ban cross-border sales
  • Measures to combat illicit trade

For more information about these 10 changes in tobacco trade on the europa.eu website

Human blood, tissues and cells

The European Commission has published two reports on the implementation of EU legislation which sets standards of quality and safety for both human blood and human tissues and cells.

According to the legislation, donations of human blood, tissues and cells should be voluntary and unpaid and all EU countries have taken measures to encourage this, although what is considered compensation and incentive vary between Member States.

The reports also point to some gaps and difficulties in applying and enforcing the rules. For both sectors, these difficulties relate to such things as the protection of donors, the inspections framework and testing and deferral criteria for new epidemiological and technological developments (eg testing for Malaria).

For more information, including links to both reports, on the ec.europa.eu website.

The changing role of nursing

The latest issue of the Eurohealth Observer, which is produced by the European Observatory on Health Systems and Policies, includes a range of articles on nursing. These cover the changing role of nursing, the state of nursing in the European Union, nurse migration, EU accession and nursing, and whether there should be an EU framework for nurse education.

To download the Eurohealth Observer from the euro.who.int website

Chronic diseases in the EU

In the EU:

  • More than 60% of people over the age of 65 suffer from one or more chronic diseases
  • 32 million adults¬† are living with diabetes
  • One in four deaths are due to cancer
  • More than 70% of health system budgets are spent on chronic diseases
  • One in three children is obese or overweight
  • On average, nearly one in four adults are smokers

A recent conference “Towards better prevention and management of chronic diseases” set out an EU approach to promote good health and prevent and manage chronic diseases in ways that complement national policies in the 28 Member States.

For more information about the EU’s chronic diseases policy on the ec.europa.eu website

European Reference Networks

European Reference Networks (ERNs) connect health care providers and centres of expertise to improve access to diagnosis, treatment and the provision of high-quality healthcare for patients with conditions requiring a particular concentration of resources or expertise no matter where they are in Europe.

For clinicians who network widely already, the ERN will represent the formalisation of their networking structures/practices in highly specialized healthcare. For those without specialist networking communities at present, ERNs will promote expertise and support health care providers in order to bring local, regional and national provision of healthcare closer to the patients.

For more information about European Reference Networks on the ec.europa.eu website