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Environmental Studies

Endocrine Disrupters and the Pill

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

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      While the EPA has done little to actually solve the problem of endocrine disrupters (EDs) in the environment, there are clear legal obligations that they fall under to find ways to help find and remove EDs. Here I will discuss several of these different acts and discuss their implications in regards to EDs.
      The Clean Water Act is considered a break through as it works to protect the quality of the nations drinking water.  The Act was shaped largely in two major years, in its original inception in 1972, when it was known as the Federal Water Pollution Control Act, and then in 1977 when it was amended and became known as the Clean Water Act. The Act established a structure for regulating the amount of pollutants that were entering the waterways of the US. The Act gave the EPA the power to set water quality standards for contaminants in surface waters. It became illegal for a person to pollute waters without a permit. The Act also helped build better sewage treatment plants. However, the waters included in the EPA's jurisdiction in the Act are only interstate waters, tributaries, territorial seas, and wetlands adjacent to the above listed. The Act does not attempt to control the water quality of ground water or any private areas, meaning that a watershed could be affected from a private source. 
      The EPA is required to monitor and control the quality of American water, yet the current course of testing does not help to deal with the immediate problem of EDs in the water supply. In other words, the EPA is failing because they are taking to long dealing with toxics that are affecting America's waterways. Also, the fact that the EPA does not include ground water in the Act is worrisome as ground water is immensely important and is one of the major things affected by pesticide use. Many pesticides have been found to be EDs as noted earlier. In other words there are serious implications as there are EDs in the current water systems, and in accordance with the Clean Water Act, the EPA should be attempting to remove this pollutant from our waters. While these laws do not apply to drinking water, contaminated waters can lead to contaminated wildlife which through biomagnification can be even more detrimental.
       Hand in hand with the Clean Water Act is the Safe Drinking Water Act (SDWA) of 1974. The Act has been amended twice, once in 1986 and then in 1996. In its most basic form, the SDWA works to protect drinking water sources from rivers, lakes, reservoirs, springs, and ground water wells (that serve more than 25 people). SDWA ensures that high quality drinking water will be protected from source to tap from improperly disposed chemicals, animal waste, pesticides, human waste, waste injected underground, and natural occurring contaminates. The Act sets national standards for drinking water, which are then used to set maximum contaminant levels for particular contaminants in drinking water. These standards also include testing requirements to ensure contaminates are not in the drinking water.
      While the SDWA sets limits on contaminants, the problem is that with EDs even small doses can have disastrous results. As Colborn discovered in Our Stolen Future even the smallest amounts of EDs can prove to be highly problematic to the endocrine system. However, even with its problems, the SDWA requires that the EPA regulate the quality of our drinking water at all its steps and ensure that this water is safe to consume. Once again the EPA is not reaching their duties, by becoming wrapped up in the administrational problems of creating new research and governing groups, the EPA has not made progress in actually solving the problem of EDs in the water supply.
       The next law is the Toxic Substance Control Act (TSCA) of 1976. This act was put into place by Congress allowing the EPA to track industrial chemicals produced or imported into the US. The EPA has the power to require testing of chemicals that it considers an environmental or human-health risk. The EPA can ban these chemicals if they believe they pose a major risk. The implementation here for EDs seems quite clear. There are several industrial chemicals (See examples of EDs) that are known EDs, yet many of these are not banned. The EPA should use its jurisdiction and ban these chemicals to ensure environmental and human-health safety.
       The Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA) of 1976 gave the EPA the power to control hazardous chemicals from their inception to their destruction. They can control the ways that hazardous chemicals are dealt with and as see from TSCA can eve ban them. The EPA has the power to deal with EDs in a much more effective way. They are simply not using at this time. They are so caught up in ensuring the correct testing of chemicals that these hazards are allowed to continue, instead of being banned like they should.
       Finally, the Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act of 1938 is technically under the jurisdiction of the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) but is also applicable in the problem of EDs. The act put into effect extensive restrictions on what regulations should be enacted for food safety, and also the creation of drugs: Some foods, such as fish can contain EDs, some drugs are EDs themselves. It seems that the EPA is not the only government agency not properly dealing with the problems of EDs. They are a part of our world, our food, our water, our medicine, and the proper laws are in place to govern EDs, and they are simply not being governed properly at this time. The government must be held accountable for their own laws, and find an effective way to deal with EDs, and allow them to be considered as an important part of each of the above laws.

All Information on this page from the EPA's website on major Environmental Laws

Last updated:  5/2/2006


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