(Beyond Pesticides, January 14, 2010) Stating that current water-quality criteria does not reflect the latest scientific knowledge, The Center for Biological Diversity petitioned the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to establish new water-quality criteria for numerous endocrine-disrupting chemicals (EDC) under the Clean Water Act. If adopted, it will be a big step in regulating and eliminating persistent and widespread chemicals that damage reproductive functions in wildlife and humans.
The Center for Biological Diversity formally requested that the EPA publish water quality criteria and information taking into account overwhelming science about the effects of EDC pollution on January 11. It says that under the Clean Water Act, EPA has a duty to periodically update water quality criteria to reflect the latest scientific knowledge. The petition presents scientific information on endocrine disrupting chemical pollution found in our waters and requests that the EPA promptly update water quality criteria reflecting this scientific information.
Last month, legislation was introduced into Congress to explore linkages between hormone disrupting chemicals in the environment and everyday products and the dramatic increase of autism, hyperactivity, diabetes, obesity, breast cancer, prostate cancer and other hormone related disorders. After the identification of endocrine disruptors, the bill, The Endocrine Disruption Prevention Act of 2009 [H.R. 4190] requires federal agencies with regulatory authority to report to Congress on the action it plans to take.
Endocrine systems are found in most animals, including mammals, non-mammalian vertebrates and invertebrates. They consist of a set of glands, such as the thyroid, gonads, adrenal and pituitary glands, and the hormones that they produce, such as thyroxine, estrogen, testosterone and adrenaline. These glands and hormones help guide the development, growth reproduction, and behavior of animals, including human beings. Hormones are the signaling molecules which travel through the bloodstream and elicit responses in other parts of the body.
Endocrine disruptors are chemicals that alter the structure or function of the body’s endocrine system, which uses hormones to regulate growth, metabolism, and tissue function. Endocrine disruptors can mimic naturally occurring hormones like estrogens and androgens, causing overstimulation, and can interfere with natural hormone functions, thereby compromising normal reproduction, development, and growth. They have been shown to damage reproductive functions and offspring, and cause developmental, neurological, and immune problems in wildlife and humans.
“Our drinking water and aquatic habitat for wildlife is being increasingly and unnecessarily contaminated by endocrine disruptors such as pesticides and pharmaceuticals,” said Jeff Miller, conservation advocate with the Center for Biological Diversity. “We should be very concerned when we see chemically castrated frogs and frankenfish resulting from these chemicals ¬ it’s time to get these poisons out of our waterways and ecosystems.”
A wide variety of substances, including pharmaceuticals, dioxins, polychlorinated biphenyls, DDT and other pesticides, solvents, and plasticizers cause endocrine disruption. Pesticides have long been present in our environment, and now additional endocrine-disrupting chemicals found in cosmetics, detergents, deodorants, antibiotics, antihistamines, oral contraceptives, veterinary and illicit drugs, analgesics, sunscreen, insect repellant, synthetic musks, disinfectants, surfactants, plasticides, and caffeine are being introduced to ecosytems and waterways.
“As we start looking at this problem, we’re seeing disturbing hormonal responses in fish and wildlife from pesticides, pharmaceuticals, and personal-care products that are contaminating aquatic ecosystems,” said Mr. Miller. “The impacts of endocrine disruptors on aquatic wildlife are our canary in the coal mine, since these contaminated waters are often our drinking-water supply. The implications for human health are not good.”
Despite its authority to do so, EPA currently regulates some, but not all, of the endocrine disruptors in the petition. For those it does regulate, advocates say that standards are not stringent enough to protect against endocrine-disrupting harm. It is now known that infinitesimally small levels of exposure may cause endocrine or reproductive abnormalities, and current regulatory levels are insufficient to protect against water quality impairment. Among some of the pollutants that are named for revision include: chlordane, chlorpyrifos, diazinon, dieldrin, DDT and its metabolites, endosulfan (alpha, beta, sulfate), naphthalene, 2,4-D, atrazine and desethyl atrazine and triclosan.
“There is currently a regulatory void for controlling endocrine disruptors, and our petition aims to start the process of protecting human health and wildlife from these dangerous chemicals,” said Mr. Miller. “We call on the Environmental Protection Agency and states to adopt sensible criteria for endocrine disruptors that will completely eliminate or dramatically reduce the ”˜acceptable’ levels of these pollutants in waterways.”
For more information on Endocrine Disruptors, please see Beyond Pesticides Fact Sheet: Pesticides That Disrupt Endocrine System Still Unregulated by EPA.