Correspondence | Published:

EU safety regulations

Don't mar legislation with pseudoscience

Nature volume 535, page 355 (21 July 2016) | Download Citation

Subjects

We are concerned that some of the European Union's processes for setting safety regulations for chemicals are being influenced by media and pseudoscience scaremongering. Pseudoscience has no place in such decisions, which should be based purely on well-defined and transparent evidence.

For example, endocrine disruptors are being blamed for obesity and type 2 diabetes (J. Legler et al. J. Clin. Endocrinol. Metab. 100, 1278–1288; 2015) despite the absence of supporting evidence for this, and despite food and sugar over-consumption being established as a proven cause. As a consequence, the European Commission's criteria for regulating endocrine-disrupting compounds as a threat to human health are based on correlational, not causal, studies (see go.nature.com/29rjlik).

Conflicts of interest can contribute to the problem, beyond the commercial motivation of industry. Some non-governmental organizations might need to maintain public concerns to boost charitable donations. Decision-makers might prefer to disregard evidence-based data that contradict a precautionary viewpoint. And some scientists put securing research funds above objective appraisal of the evidence.

Acting on hazard identification alone relieves the scaremongering party of the burden of proof, when harm is simply assumed. As a result, regulations can become unnecessarily restrictive. They may even be damaging, for example if an agricultural ban were to be imposed on triazole fungicides because of their endocrine-disrupting potential. The risk to humans at such levels of exposure would be negligible (J. E. Chambers et al. Crit. Rev. Toxicol. 44, 176–210; 2014). It makes no sense to override such evidence with a blanket ban on potentially hazardous chemicals that ignores the public's demonstrable low level of exposure.

Author information

Author notes

    • Daniel R. Dietrich

    *On behalf of 8 correspondents (see Supplementary information for full list).

Affiliations

  1. University of Konstanz, Germany.

    • Daniel R. Dietrich

Authors

  1. Search for Daniel R. Dietrich in:

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Daniel R. Dietrich.

Supplementary information

About this article

Publication history

Published

DOI

https://doi.org/10.1038/535355c

Comments

By submitting a comment you agree to abide by our Terms and Community Guidelines. If you find something abusive or that does not comply with our terms or guidelines please flag it as inappropriate.

Newsletter Get the most important science stories of the day, free in your inbox. Sign up for Nature Briefing