EDCs Harm Human Health, Experts Compel Congress to Act

Scientific consensus demands action to protect the public from the known adverse impact of commonly occurring, endocrine-disrupting chemicals (EDCs) found in the environment.

A clear and convincing scientific consensus was delivered to members of Congress on the harmful health effects of the 85,000 known, endocrine-disrupting chemicals (EDCs) at a briefing held on September 21, in Washington, DC.

Hundreds of studies now link EDCs to numerous medical disorders, ranging from thyroid diseases and diabetes, to obesity and neurological disorders.1,2

In the latest research, investigators at the University of Michigan confirmed evidence that EDCs may reduce serum levels of vitamin D--the first study to find an association between EDC exposure and vitamin D in a large group of U.S. adults.3  Another recently published study focused on the impact to of EDC exposure in children, given the heightened, dose sensitive implications during fetal development and infancy.4

“There has been a lot of attention on concerns about chemicals in plastics [ie, BPA], or household products, and exposures through food and food packaging but it seems that the message has been that there is still some sort of controversy about whether this is really a public health problem, or not,” Andrea C. Gore, MD, PhD, told EndocrineWeb. Dr. Gore was one of the experts appearing at the congressional briefing. 

“We hope that this conference will convince policymakers and the public that amongst scientists—especially those who really do understand endocrinology—there is no controversy,” said Dr. Gore, Vacek Chair of Pharmacology and a professor of pharmacology and toxicology at the University of Texas at Austin.

“Even when we have a clear history of exposure, some medical practitioners view this is akin to voodoo medicine, dismissing both the diagnosis and the patient,” said Elena A Christofides, MD, FACE, a clinical endocrinologist in New York, who shared her response with EndocrineWeb. “I find this call to action necessary and timely to further the education of patients and practitioners with regard to the dangers of EDC’s so that we may arrive at a better  understanding of how we can protect our patients.”

“We have the strongest confidence that we’ve ever had about EDCs and these disorders,” she said. Legislation currently pending in Congress (S. 1014, the Personal Care Products Safety Act) would require the FDA to take a proactive approach to ensuring that chemicals used in personal care products are safe, by requiring federal testing and review of at least five chemicals annually.  In addition to advancing that legislation, she would like to see more transparency about chemicals for consumers, not only about the ingredients in personal care products, but also in foods and food packaging, according to Dr. Gore.

“If the chemicals in our food and the containers they come in are so safe, why is it a problem for us to have a complete list of them?” she asked.

Dr. Gore suggested that both endocrinologists and general practitioners include questions related to environmental health exposure at every checkup.

“We often don’t ask about a person’s diet if they’re close to a normal weight,” she said. “But we should be asking about our patients eating habits, and trying to encourage them to eat as much fresh food as they can, since processing introduces chemicals, even inadvertently.”

“We also need to be paying closer attention when children present with obesity, or pre-diabetes” said Dr. Gore. If clinicians are noticing unanticipated conditions such as: calcium disregulation, thyroid disorders, and early puberty among your patients, this should be acted upon, which may start with notifying the Endocrine Society,” Dr. Gore suggested.

Endocrinologists and other physicians can also give their patients a checklist of steps to take to avoid unnecessary chemical exposure. For example, Dr. Gore said:

  • Rinse all produce well, under running tap water to remove most chemicals.
  • Eat fresh products over packaged, whenever possible.
  • Avoid the need for an exterminator and use of pesticides and other harsh chemicals, by keeping the house clean, trash sealed, and holes in the kitchen plugged to reduce access to mice, insects and other pests.
  • Use warm soapy water rather than chemicals in cleaning.
  • Bring a personal metal water bottle to work, school and outings.
  • Avoid antibacterial soaps.

To this last point, Dr. Gore said, “they [antibacterial products] are really just not needed and they add another source of chemical exposure.” 

The congressional briefing, organized by the Endocrine Society, was initiated in recognition of the accumulating and compelling evidence that has been amassed over the past quarter century.

Also present at the congressional briefing, Linda S. Birnbaum, PhD, director of the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS) and the National Toxicology Program; John A. McLachlan, PhD, former scientific director of the NIEHS and now Weatherhead Distinguished Professor of Environmental Studies at Tulane School of Medicine in New Orleans; and Tracey J. Woodruff, PhD, MPH, director of the Program on Reproductive Health and the Environment and professor of Obstetrics, Gynecology, and Reproductive Sciences at the University of California, San Francisco. 

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