(Beyond Pesticides, June 12, 2007) More than 10 years after being directed to do so by Congress, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has announced that it will test 73 pesticides for their potential to damage the endocrine system and disrupt the normal functioning of hormones in the body, the agency announced in a press release yesterday. EPA is seeking comments on the draft list of 73 pesticides to be evaluated under the new screening regimen.
The 1996 Food Quality Protection Act (FQPA) set a 1999 deadline for EPA to develop a battery of assays with which pesticide manufacturers will be required to screen their products as possible endocrine (hormonal) disrupters, similar to tests required to determine whether chemicals cause cancer, birth defects, genetic mutations, or other problems. EPA has repeatedly pushed back the deadline and despite claims to be “a leader in endocrine disruptor research,” EPA has yet to test a single chemical under the protocol.
EPA draft list of 73 pesticide ingredients, including both active and inert ingredients, were chosen based on their relatively high potential for human exposure. According to the press release, priority was given “to pesticide active ingredients where there is the potential for human exposure through food and water, residential exposure to pesticide products, and high levels of occupational exposure following an application of agricultural pesticides. For pesticide inert ingredients, the priority was on those with high production volumes found in human or ecological tissues, water, and indoor air.”
Since the publication of the book Our Stolen Future in 1996, world-wide attention has been brought to scientific discoveries about endocrine disruption in wildlife and humans, and the fact that low-levels of exposure to common contaminants can interfere with the natural signals controlling development of the fetus and other hormonal functions. Research links the presence of endocrine disruptors to reproductive disorders, alterations in neurodevelopment, cancer, immune suppression and other adverse health endpoints. Examples of the environmental impacts of endocrine- disrupting chemicals have been well-established: hermaphroditic deformities in frogs, pseudo-hermaphrodite polar bears with penis-like stumps, panthers with atrophied testicles, and intersex fish have all been documented as the probable result of endocrine-disrupting chemicals in the environment. Many scientists believe that wildlife provides early warnings of effects produced by endocrine disruptors, which may as yet be unobserved in humans.