Blood tests have revealed that environment ministers from 13 European Union countries are contaminated with chemical pollutants from sofas, pizza boxes and pesticides, the environmental group WWF says.
Offering a rare insight into ministerial lifestyles as well as the risk of chemical pollution in everyday life, WWF said 55 different traces found in their blood samples came from flame retardants used on furniture, non-stick pans, greaseproof pizza packaging, plastics, fragrances and banned pesticides.
All the ministers bore traces of 22 poly-chlorinated biphenyls (PCB), a category of toxic chemicals banned in Europe during the 1970s and among the "dirty dozen" being phased out internationally, it added in a statement.
WWF said the tests on blood samples taken from ministerial volunteers during an international health conference in June were meant to highlight a debate on new EU rules to identify and phase out the most harmful chemicals.
"The ministers are all contaminated with industrial chemcials whose effects are largely unknown," said Karl Wagner, director of WWF's "Detox" campaign.
"It's hard to believe that legislators have been willing to allow this uncontrolled experiement to continue for so many years," he added.
WWF said that 86 percent of the 2,500 commonly used industrial chemicals do not have enough public safety information while research has linked many of them to cancers, allergies, reproductive problems and growth defects.
A total of 55 different chemicals were found in the ministers' blood.
"What the effect is, is a matter of debate, particularly with the hormone disrupting chemicals where timing matters," WWF spokesman Julian Scola said, highlighting the potential disruption to reproduction in younger people.
Swedish Environment Minister Lena Sommestad and Estonia's Olavi Tammemae were found to have the lowest number of chemical traces, 33.
While Sommestad had the lowest pesticide count, Tammemae had the highest number of pefluorinated chemicals, which are used in water or greaseproof coatings.
The minister whose blood contained the highest number of chemicals -- 43 -- declined to be identified, Scola said.
The ministers who submitted to blood tests came from Britain, Cyprus, the Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Hungary, Italy, Lithuania, Slovakia, Spain and Sweden.
© Copyright 2004 AFP