A prominent current theory is that endocrine disrupters are hormonally active compounds found in the environment that have environmental and human health effects. The Environmental Protection Agency held a convention on the subject in 1995 and identified the problems as being reproductive, neurological, immunological and carcinogenic risks from endocrine-disrupting chemicals (EDC’s).
The best known EDC is the pharmaceutical diethylstilbesterol (DES) given to women therapeutically. DES was found to be the cause of abnormalities of the reproductive tracts in sons and daughters as well as vaginal tumors in daughters exposed to DES as a fetus. Other well known chemicals being tested include organochlorines (such as DDT, PCBs and bisphenol A), methoxychlor, alkylphenols, phthalates, anti-androgenic fungicides, chlortriazine, herbicides, phytoestrogens, and a few pharmaceuticals. Phytoestrogens (plant estrogens) in the human diet are a source of EDC’s.
In 1996, The U.S. Congress passed bills to require testing for estrogen and hormonal effects of food use pesticides and drinking water contaminants. Hormonal activity includes estrogen activity, androgen activity and chemicals that alter thyroid activity. Over 70,000 chemicals are to be tested under the Toxic Substances Control Act. The Endocrine Disruptor Screening and Testing Advisory Committee (EDSTAC) is in charge of the studies.
Some EDC’s work by blocking receptor sites and others work by blocking enzymes. Gene testing will be done since it is possible that abnormalities of reproductive tracts are preceded by abnormalities of gene expression.
There are two phases to the testing: The first phase includes eight separate tests to decide which chemicals need more complete phase two testing. About 1,000 chemicals should pass to stage two, which includes studies of chemical effects on invertebrates, fish, amphibians, birds and mammals. Phase 1 testing will cost $200,000 per chemical. Phase 2 testing will cost $1,000,000 per chemical.
CONCLUSION: Progress has been made by the U.S. Government by congressional action for the testing of chemicals for estrogen and other hormonal activity. Extensive testing of over 70,000 chemicals for hormonal activity will be done. This is a new area of toxicology and testing will be done for estrogen, androgen and thyroid gland interference. The program started in 1996 will take a long time to complete.
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