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Environmental Studies

Endocrine Disrupters and the Pill

Introduction
How EDs Work
Our Stolen Future
Drugs in the Environment
Examples of EDs
Government Testing
Laws
The Pill as an ED
History of the Pill
Case Study: Coastal Waters
Case Study: Fish
Case Study: Men in Italy
Solutions
What you can do!
Further Information

Comments & questions to:
khornbach@macalester.edu


Government Testing


    In 1996, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) created The Endocrine Screening and Testing Advisory Committee (EDSTAC) whose goal was to develop ways to screen and test for endocrine disrupters(EDs). By September of 1998, the EDSTAC had put their own scientists to work to continue to explore the role of EDs. Their findings were similar to Colborn's own, showing that certain chemicals disrupted the body's natural endocrine systems functions.  Through the EDSTAC's testing (done in a laboratory on animals), they found that EDs affect the reproductive system of both males and females, causing disruption of normal sexual differentiation, sperm production, and can cause preterm births. The EDSTAC also found that EDs could affect the thyroid gland, which affects metabolism. They, however, conclude that while these affects are seen on lab animals, there is no clear indication that the same problems will occur with humans if they are exposed to EDs. It is also noted that additional research is needed to determine whether EDs affect breast and prostate cancer and nervous system development. Their report also included further research into the environmental impacts of EDs. The list of affected animals given by the EDSTAC includes: snails, oysters, fish, alligators, reptiles, and birds. The EDSTAC, however, did not want to draw too many conclusions or point any fingers, instead they note that the problems in the wildlife are not linked to any specific chemical and many in fact may not be even directly related to the problem of EDs. They also note that many of these substances, such as DDT and PCBs, have already been banned or are heavily regulated, therefore reducing current risk. The EDSTAC concludes from their further research that they are concerned with the problems of EDs especially in regards to human health and the environment and worry about possible toxic like reactions to the chemicals. At this point, the EDSTAC simply said they were going to continue to monitor and research EDs hoping to reduce the risks for humans and the environment.
    To comply with the Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act, the EPA created a screening program to determine which chemicals act as EDs. They created the Endocrine Disruptor Screening Program (EDSP). It took two more years, till 2000, for the EPA to have a full report to give to Congress. This is where they fully explain the EDSP, which consists of a two-tiered system to examine possible EDs. Tier one tests chemical that may be EDs, and tier two confirms that they are EDs. In their report to Congress the EPA explains they are working on fully implementing the EDSP, including developing new software to help decide which chemicals should be tested first. Also at this time the EPA was working to create procedure on how exactly to test possible EDs. Basically, while the EPA had excellent motives in being pro-active and attempting to deal with the mounting problems of EDs, two years after establishing a system for testing and four years after the beginning of their testing, the EPA had accomplished little to actual screen for or protect against EDs.  While attempting to do science and create policy at the same time, the EPA has been able to do anything meaningful in either field. This conflict at the EPA between science and policy is troublesome. Instead of having the two concepts working together to create policy around the new emerging science and therefore helping to immediately create solutions to the problems, there is a disconnect. Science is being done, though very slowly, and policy is being created to help deal with the problems. However, the EPA has not created a solution that works. Policy can be used to solve some of the problems related to EDs, such as the banning of EDs in pesticides and plastics, but policy will be able to do little to deal with the problems of other EDs such as synthetic estrogen. Instead, technology to deal with these problems should occur simultaneously with science and policy. This would solve serious problems, such as that of EDs, instead of letting it fester for long periods of time. This current disjoint is part of the bureaucratic problem of the EPA.
    In 2001 the EPA created another body to work on EDs called the Endocrine Disruptor Methods Validation Subcommittee (EDMVS). In their mission statement they claim their function to be "the development and choice of initial protocols; prevalidation study designs; validation study designs; and the integration of prevalidation and validation study results into EDSP Tier 1 and Tier 2 methods documents suitable for external peer review." (EDMVS) This organization had a life span of three years making one report to Congress and being replaced by the Endocrine Disruptor Methods Validation Advisory Committee (EDMVAC) in 2004. This continual changing in power formats has gotten little actual work done in the EPA, and instead the ED time line on their website reads more like a list of all the committees created and disbanded. In fact the screening process has not even begun yet. The EPA has gotten nothing done that will contribute to the understanding and removal of EDs from our environment. So far the EPA has not acted in accordance with 1996 Food Quality Protection Act (FQPA) or the amendments of the same year to the Safe Drinking Water Act (SDWA). The acts required the EPA to:

Develop a screening program, using appropriate validated test systems and other scientifically relevant information, to determine whether certain substances may have an effect in humans that is similar to an effect produced by a naturally occurring estrogen, or other such endocrine effect as the Administrator may designate.

There are requirements for the EPA to reach, they know that EDs exist and are a real threat; the problem is bureaucracy has tied up the system so that almost nothing has gotten done.

Information on this page from the EPA's Endocrine Disrupter website

Last updated:  5/2/2006

 


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