Greenpeace warns commonly found chemicals may be harmful for humans

Greenpeace pushed Tuesday for EU legislation for tougher regulation of the chemicals industry, warning that not enough has been done to test the effect of chemicals found in consumer products - from cosmetics to computers - on human reproductive health.

The environmental group urged the European Parliament to require companies to replace toxic chemicals where alternatives exist, and to periodically review authorization of other chemicals that could be dangerous.

The recommendations came as Greenpeace published a report citing scientific research linking declining fertility rates and reproductive disorders in Europe in the last 50 years to the development of tens of thousands of new chemicals used in a vast range household products.

The report, entitled "Fragile: Our Reproductive Health and Chemical Exposure," pulls together "various pieces of evidence from various scientific publications that are in no way linked to Greenpeace," Santillo said.

The report came as the European Parliament was discussing legislation on tightening the regulation of chemicals for the 25-country European Union.

Greenpeace said the draft law has been steadily watered down in the protection it would offer. A decision on the law, known by the acronym REACH for Registration, Evaluation, Authorization of Chemicals, is due by the end of the year.

The chemical link to reproductive problems cannot be 100 percent proved, Santillo said, but the evidence of the link was growing stronger.

The report acknowledged several problems in the research, including the fact that no human control group is available since everyone is exposed to suspect chemicals, even in the womb. Lifestyle, smoking, diet and shifting demographics also could be factors, it said.

Laboratory tests on animals reinforce suspicions of the harmful effects on humans, but they study isolated chemicals rather than the cocktail that is ever present in normal Western life. Also, the effect of exposure at an early age may not become apparent for years, or even decades, the AP reports.

Chemicals that are believed to affect hormones or mimic female hormones are found in food wrappings, plastic goods and perfumes. Insulation used in computers, televisions and mobile phones to safeguard against fire can leak into household dust, and has caused birth defects in rats in laboratory experiments.