Endocrine-disruptors Pose Global Health Threat
Endocrine disrupting chemicals are all around us. They’re widely used in plastics and even food containers. Bisphenol A (BPA) is one example of this class of chemicals. It received attention in recent years for its accumulation in human tissues. Pressure from the public forced manufacturers to provide alternatives to BPA-laced sippy cups for infants, for instance, and food manufacturers began offering BPA-free can linings and water bottles.
But endocrine-disrupting chemicals (EDCs) are everywhere: in furniture, carpeting, toys, building materials and even cosmetics. These synthetic chemicals mimic estrogens, and fool the body’s estrogen receptors, triggering any number of cellular activities, including the release of other hormones and signaling molecules, all while blocking the action of natural estrogens. Possible links to obesity, diabetes, male and female fertility and maturation, etc., have all been proposed.
Human health advocates have warned for years that these EDCs are accumulating in our bodies, our soil, our water, and even in animals and ecosystems. They point to ominous signs—falling male fertility levels around the world, for example, and grotesquely early sexual maturation of little girls in certain areas—signs that warn of the harm EDCs are doing already. They also worry that these signs may be the tip of a looming iceberg.
And then there are the chemical industry experts. The editors of a number of toxicology and pharmacology journals published an open letter recently expressing their consensus opinion that EDCs should not be regulated by the European Union. They accused the EU of acting out of “scientifically unfounded caution.” This prompted an unprecedented response from endocrinology professionals, who published a counter argument: “The potential for [harmful] effects of EDC must be considered...” they wrote, adding, “...concern about the consequences of widespread exposure of human and wildlife populations during all life stages to chemicals that can interfere with hormone action.”
Dietrich D, von Aulock S, Marquardt HW, Blaauboer BJ, Dekant W, Kehrer J, et al. Open letter to the European commission: scientifically unfounded precaution drives European commission's recommendations on EDC regulation, while defying common sense, well-established science, and risk assessment principles. Arch Toxicol. 2013 Sep;87(9):1739-41. doi: 10.1007/s00204-013-1117-2. Epub 2013 Aug 27.
Zoeller RT, Brown TR, Doan LL, Gore AC, Skakkebaek NE, Soto AM, et al. Endocrine-disrupting chemicals and public health protection: a statement of principles from The Endocrine Society. Endocrinology. 2012 Sep;153(9):4097-110. doi: 10.1210/en.2012-1422. Epub 2012 Jun 25.