Thursday, January 14, 2010

CBD Petitions To Regulate Endocrine-Disrupting Chemicals

Jan 11: The Center for Biological Diversity (CBD) petitioned the U.S. EPA to establish water-quality criteria for numerous endocrine-disrupting chemicals under the Clean Water Act. CBD said this is "the first step in regulating and eliminating persistent and widespread chemicals that damage reproductive functions in wildlife and humans." Jeff Miller, a conservation advocate with CBD said, “Our drinking water and aquatic habitat for wildlife is being increasingly and unnecessarily contaminated by endocrine disruptors such as pesticides and pharmaceuticals. We should be very concerned when we see chemically castrated frogs and frankenfish resulting from these chemicals -- it’s time to get these poisons out of our waterways and ecosystems.”

CBD indicated that endocrine disruptors are chemicals that alter the structure or function of the body’s endocrine system, which uses hormones to regulate growth, metabolism, and tissue function. Endocrine disruptors can mimic naturally occurring hormones like estrogens and androgens, causing overstimulation, and can interfere with natural hormone functions, thereby compromising normal reproduction, development, and growth. They have been shown to damage reproductive functions and offspring, and cause developmental, neurological, and immune problems in wildlife and humans.

Miller said, “As we start looking at this problem, we’re seeing disturbing hormonal responses in fish and wildlife from pesticides, pharmaceuticals, and personal-care products that are contaminating aquatic ecosystems,” said Miller. “The impacts of endocrine disruptors on aquatic wildlife are our canary in the coal mine, since these contaminated waters are often our drinking-water supply. The implications for human health are not good.”

A wide variety of substances, including pharmaceuticals, dioxins, polychlorinated biphenyls, DDT and other pesticides, solvents, and plasticizers can cause endocrine disruption. Pesticides have long been present in our environment, and now additional endocrine-disrupting chemicals found in cosmetics, detergents, deodorants, antibiotics, antihistamines, oral contraceptives, veterinary and illicit drugs, analgesics, sunscreen, insect repellant, synthetic musks, disinfectants, surfactants, plasticides, and caffeine are being introduced to ecosystems and waterways.

CBD notes that U.S. EPA currently regulates some, but not all, of the endocrine disruptors in the petition. They said for those it does regulate, standards are not stringent enough to protect against endocrine-disrupting harm. It is now known that infinitesimally small levels of exposure may cause endocrine or reproductive abnormalities, and current regulatory levels are insufficient to protect against water quality impairment. Miller said, “There is currently a regulatory void for controlling endocrine disruptors, and our petition aims to start the process of protecting human health and wildlife from these dangerous chemicals. We call on the Environmental Protection Agency and states to adopt sensible criteria for endocrine disruptors that will completely eliminate or dramatically reduce the ‘acceptable’ levels of these pollutants in waterways.”

On December 3, 2009, legislation was introduced in the House and Senate by Representative Jim Moran (D-VA) and Senator John Kerry (D-MA) to explore linkages between endocrine-disrupting chemicals (EDCs) in the environment and everyday goods and the dramatic increase of autism, hyperactivity, diabetes, obesity, breast cancer, prostate cancer and other hormone related disorders. The Endocrine Disruption Prevention Act of 2009 [H.R. 4190, S. 2828] would facilitate the research necessary to determine whether these chemicals are affecting human health. Specifically, the act would authorize an ambitious new research program at the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences to identify EDCs and establish an independent panel of scientists to oversee research and develop a prioritized list of chemicals for investigation. If the panel determined that a chemical presented even a minimal level of concern, it would compel the federal agencies with established regulatory authority to report to Congress and propose next steps within six months.

Access a release from CBD and links to the petition and background information (click here). Access a release from Representative Moran and Senator Kerry (click here). Access additional information from the organization Beyond Pesticides (click here). Access legislative details for S. 2828 (click here). Access legislative details for H.R. 4190 (click here).