Greenpeacereleased its report,
Swimming in Chemicals
, just two weeks before theEuropean Parliament and
governments of EU member states decide whetherto bow to an industry
lobby that would weaken proposed EU legislationfor greater
protection from hazardous chemicals or vote to safeguardour lives
and the environment from these dangers.
The study of European eels (Anguilla anguilla) from 20 rivers
and lakesin 10 EU countries  demonstrates their widespread
contamination withbrominated flame retardants (BFRs), a group of
chemicals used intextiles, plastics and electronic goods and of
increasing concernregarding their toxicity. Many of the chemicals
found in eels remain inuse throughout Europe while others have been
phased out since the1970s.
"The chemicals industry is lobbying to escape regulation even
whilehazardous chemicals seep into the environment," said Helen
Perivier ofGreenpeace International. "It is time for the European
Parliament andnational governments in the EU to hold industry
accountable for thechemicals it releases into the environment and
to protect freshwaterecosystems, wildlife and ourselves from
hazardous chemicals forgenerations to come."
Results found that eels from every location contained residues
of atleast one BFR compound, indicating the widespread dispersal of
thesechemicals in European waters. The highest levels of BFRs were
recordedin the eels collected from the River Thames in the UK. The
highestlevel of PCBs was recorded in a sample from the
Netherlands(Hollandsdiep). Among the lowest levels of all the
contaminants werereported in eels from the west of Ireland.
Already under severe threat from overfishing, habitat loss and
possiblyclimate change, numbers of young eels returning to some
European watersare now thought to be as low as 1% of historic
levels. Contaminationwith persistent toxins may also be an
important factor in the declineof this intriguing species believed
to migrate thousands of miles fromthe North Atlantic to Europe.
Growing evidence indicates that BFRs, which are persistent
andbioaccumulative chemicals, exhibit a clear potential for
adverseeffects in humans and wildlife and that two of the BFR
groups examinedin this study may adversely impact neurobehavioral
development andthyroid hormone systems.
Greenpeace is urging EU governments and the European Parliament
to votefor legislation requiring the chemicals industry to identify
andsubstitute problem chemicals. The European Parliament will vote
on theproposed REACH legislation (Registration, Evaluation,
Authorisation ofChemicals) .
Greenpeace is an independent campaigning organization, which
usesnon-violent, creative communication tools to put the spotlight
onglobal environmental problems and to drive towards solutions
essentialfor a green and peaceful future.
Other contacts: Helen Perivier, Greenpeace International toxics campaigner, tel +32 496 127107Katharine Mill, Greenpeace International Communications, tel +32 496 156229David Santillo, Greenpeace Research Laboratories, tel +44 1392263917
Notes:  “Swimming in Chemicals: Widespread presence of brominated flame retardants and PCBs in eels (Anguilla anguilla) from rivers and lakes in 10 European countries.http://www.greenpeace.org/international/press/reports/pollutionPCBBFReels Belgium, Czech Republic, France, Germany, Ireland, Italy, Netherlands, Poland, Spain, and UK. The eels were donated by members of the fishing and science community or purchased in local markets. The European Parliament will vote on the REACH proposal on 17 November, and the Council (EU Member States) will form a common agreement on the legislation on 29 November. The chemicals industry, actively supported by EU Industry Commissioner Verheugen, is lobbying for exemptions that would allow it to continue producing and marketing chemicals without providing basic health and safety data for their chemicals. Such a measure would cripple the ability of the REACH legislation to protect health and environment.Links to earlier Greenpeace investigations of hazardous chemicals in house dust, perfumes and other consumer products, rainwater, and umbilical cord blood: http://www.greenpeace.org/toxics/cheminvestigations