Endocrine-Disrupting Chemicals and Public Health Protection

Byron's Comments:

This is a very important health topic.

Study Title:

Endocrine-Disrupting Chemicals and Public Health Protection: A Statement of Principles from The Endocrine Society

Study Abstract:

An endocrine-disrupting chemical (EDC) is an exogenous chemical, or mixture of chemicals, that can interfere with any aspect of hormone action. The potential for deleterious effects of EDC must be considered relative to the regulation of hormone synthesis, secretion, and actions and the variability in regulation of these events across the life cycle. The developmental age at which EDC exposures occur is a critical consideration in understanding their effects. Because endocrine systems exhibit tissue-, cell-, and receptor-specific actions during the life cycle, EDC can produce complex, mosaic effects. This complexity causes difficulty when a static approach to toxicity through endocrine mechanisms driven by rigid guidelines is used to identify EDC and manage risk to human and wildlife populations. We propose that principles taken from fundamental endocrinology be employed to identify EDC and manage their risk to exposed populations. We emphasize the importance of developmental stage and, in particular, the realization that exposure to a presumptive “safe” dose of chemical may impact a life stage when there is normally no endogenous hormone exposure, thereby underscoring the potential for very low-dose EDC exposures to have potent and irreversible effects. Finally, with regard to the current program designed to detect putative EDC, namely, the Endocrine Disruptor Screening Program, we offer recommendations for strengthening this program through the incorporation of basic endocrine principles to promote further understanding of complex EDC effects, especially due to developmental exposures.

From press release:

In an editorial published in Endocrinology, a journal of The Endocrine Society, endocrine experts agreed that endocrine-disrupting chemicals (EDCs) pose a threat to human health and to the ecosystems of Earth. The editorial comes in response to a commentary (Dietrich et al. Chem Biol Interact) signed by a number of editors of toxicology journals that dismisses the state-of-the-science on EDCs and argues for the status quo in the regulation of these hazardous substances.

EDCs* are commonly found in food and food containers, plastic products, furniture, toys, carpeting, building materials, and cosmetics. They are often released from the products that contain them and enter the bodies of humans and wildlife through dust or through the food chain. A large volume of studies have shown that EDCs exert their effects by interfering with endogenous hormone action and can impact male and female reproduction, breast development and cancer, prostate cancer, neuroendocrinology, thyroid, metabolism and obesity, and cardiovascular endocrinology.

“The Dietrich et al. paper neglects the fundamental principles of how the endocrine system works and how chemicals can interfere with its normal function, nor does it consider the consequences of that interference,” said Andrea Gore, PhD, lead author of the editorial and Editor-in-Chief of Endocrinology. “We cannot have sound policies for regulating these chemicals when we ignore the science.”

The Endocrinology editorial, Gore et al., represents an unprecedented response from the endocrine community. The editorial was signed by 20 editors-in-chief and 28 associate and senior editors of endocrine, neuroendocrine, environmental, and other peer-reviewed journals. Dr. Teresa Woodruff, PhD, President of The Endocrine Society and several other presidents of societies or medical organizations have also signed on to the editorial.

The Endocrine Society has published a Scientific Statement on EDCs—a thorough review of the literature, with recommendations for improved policy—and a Statement of Principles—a summary of critical endocrine principles that are relevant to risk assessment as it applies to EDCs. In its Statement of Principles, the Society recommends that endocrine principles be incorporated into programs by the EPA and other agencies charged with evaluating chemicals for endocrine-disrupting potential.

“Regulatory decisions on the use of EDCs should be made based on the best available science and expertise that involves among others, reproductive biology, endocrinology, medicine, genetics and toxicology,” said Gore.

*According to the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences, a wide range of substances, both natural and human-made, are thought to cause endocrine disruption, including pharmaceuticals, dioxin and dioxin-like compounds, polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), DDT and other pesticides, and plasticizers such as bisphenol A.


Study Information:

R. T. Zoeller, T. R. Brown, L. L. Doan, A. C. Gore, N. E. Skakkebaek, A. M. Soto, T. J. Woodruff, F. S. Vom Saal.  Endocrine-Disrupting Chemicals and Public Health Protection: A Statement of Principles from The Endocrine Society Endocrinology 2013 September 2012 vol. 153 no. 9 4097-4110
University of Massachusetts, Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health.

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