(Beyond Pesticides, March 10, 2011) The American Public Health Association (APHA) recently adopted 17 new policies at its 138th Annual Meeting in Denver, addressing a broad range of public health concerns, including a new policy calling for greater government action to protect the public from endocrine-disrupting chemicals (EDCs). The policy statement follows official positions released earlier in 2010 by both the American Medical Association (AMA) and the Endocrine Society in that more needs to be done to protect the public from endocrine-disrupting chemicals, or those that interfere with hormone action.
Specifically, APHA urges:
”¢ Support for the Endocrine Society and the American Medical Association in proclaiming that more needs to be done to protect the public from potential health risks of exposure to EDCs.
”¢ That given the magnitude and urgency of the public health threat and the recognition that collectively EDCs likely will have common or overlapping effects on the endocrine system, steps should therefore be taken by federal agencies with regulatory oversight for various individual EDCs to coordinate and find synergies among themselves to coordinate and find synergy among federal agencies with regulatory oversight over various individual EDCs.
”¢ Health professionals and scientists with expertise in various aspects of the toxicity, exposure, and environmental fate of EDCs, throughout the lifecycle of their manufacture, use, distribution, and disposal be consulted and be active participants in the development of public policies to regulate and restrict EDCs. These may consist of, for example, endocrinologists, toxicologists, occupational/environmental medicine specialists, epidemiologists, and policymakers.
”¢ That these public policies further should be based on data that comprehensively include both low-level and high-level exposures.
Currently, there is no comprehensive, coordinated approach to regulating EDCs in the U.S. In 1996, Endocrine Disruptors (EDCs) were formally recognized as a public health concern when Congress passed the Food Quality Protection Act (FQPA) and amendments to the Safe Drinking Water Act. Years behind a statutory schedule, in 2009 the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) issued its first test orders for screening of dozens of high-priority pesticides for endocrine disrupting effects. The agency subsequently announced that it has expanded its testing and identified a list of chemicals that will be screened for their potential to disrupt the endocrine system, along with a draft of the policies and procedures that the agency has proposed to follow for testing. However, the agency has yet to finalize its procedures or officially test a chemical for endocrine disruption since tasked to do so in 1996 by the Act of Congress.
Hundreds of scientific articles have been published across the globe demonstrating how a broad selection of chemicals can interfere with the normal development at extremely low levels of exposure. Scientists discovered effects for some widely used chemicals at concentrations thousands of times less than federal “safe” levels of exposure derived through traditional toxicological tests. One example, cites Theo Colborn, PhD, author of Our Stolen Future and president of the Endocrine Disruptor Exchange (TDEX), is the weed killer atrazine. Atrazine is the herbicide most frequently found in surface and drinking waters in the U.S. It is linked to a host of adverse health effects including endocrine disruption, which has been well-documented in frogs and other laboratory animals. Atrazine is already listed on the Colborn List of endocrine disruptors and has been recognized by the European Union (EU) as a category 1 (evidence of endocrine disrupting activity in at least one species) endocrine disruptor. For a complete list of EU-identified endocrine disruptors, see the EU’s “Endocrine Disrupters Website” database page. (The Colborn List and the EU have already tested many chemicals for endocrine disruption that EPA is just beginning to evaluate.)
The policy calls on health professionals and scientists with expertise on endocrine-disrupting chemicals to be active in developing public policies to regulate and restrict such chemicals. Though independent testing of some chemicals may already have shown them to have endocrine-disrupting activity, such hazard or safety testing has never been performed for the tens of thousands of EPA-registered compounds in use and in the environment today.
The APHA policy focuses on the Precautionary Principle. Policies must be developed to consistently and comprehensively examine all chemicals for potential EDC activity. APHA calls for such policies to be based on data addressing the effects at low-level or “low-dose” levels of exposure as well as the more traditional approach to toxicology which looks only at high-level exposure levels.
For years, scientists have noted strange anomalies in fish and wildlife in locations where EDCs are found. A recent study found that an astounding 100 percent of small mouth bass in certain sites of the Potomac River basin have exhibited both male and female organs, a characteristic linked to EDCs. According to a 2009 study by the U.S. Geologic Survey, the occurrence of “intersex” fish is now found to be nationwide.
For more information on Endocrine Disruptors, please see Beyond Pesticides’ Endocrine Disruption brochure and Fact Sheet: Pesticides That Disrupt Endocrine System Still Unregulated by EPA.
Dr. Colborn will be a keynote speaker at the 29th National Pesticide Forum, Sustainable Sustainable Community: Practical solutions for health and the environmental April 8-9 in Denver, CO. Her incisive research has demonstrated that endocrine disrupting chemicals alter development of the fetus in the womb by interfering with the natural hormonal signals directing fetal growth. Her work has prompted the enactment of new laws around the world and redirected the research of academicians, governments, and the private sector. Dr. Colburn has been honored by Time magazine as a global Environmental Hero, Dr. Colborn is co-author of Our Stolen Future and president of The Endocrine Disruption Exchange (TEDX).