Being a member of the European Parliament (MEP) could be a risky occupation.

Being a member of the European Parliament (MEP) could be a risky occupation, if recent reports by Greenpeace and the Worldwide Fund for Nature (WWF) are anything to go by.

WWF analysed the blood samples of 47 European volunteers, including 39 MEPs. It scanned the blood samples for organochlorine pesticides, PCBs, brominated flame retardants, phthalates and perfluorinated compounds and found 76 different chemicals (from the 101 that it looked for) in the blood of those tested. According to WWF, ’the results reveal that every person is contaminated with a cocktail of persistent, bioaccumulative and toxic chemicals’. The highest number of chemicals detected in any one person was 54 and at least 13 chemicals were found in the blood of every person tested.

The WWF study followed hot on the trail of a Greenpeace report which describes how researchers collected and tested dust samples from 69 houses in Belgium and also from various offices of the European Parliament in Brussels. They analysed dust samples for phthalate esters, alkylphenols, brominated flame retardants, organotin compounds and short-chain chlorinated paraffins.

The dust from the European Parliament building contained higher concentrations of total phthalates, alkylphenols, organotins and some brominated flame retardants than the mean concentrations of these chemicals in European dust. In an ironic twist, the dust from the office of the Belgian environment minister, Freya van den Bossche, contained higher concentrations of total alkylphenols, organotins and brominated flame retardants than the European mean concentrations.

We will perhaps never know whether the results reflect the willingness of MEPs to take part in such studies or reveal a new and dangerous aspect to political life.

Emma Davies