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Endocrine Disruption Demystified

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What is endocrine disruption? What determines if something is an “endocrine disruptor”? Better yet, what is the federal government doing to protect us from the effects of “endocrine disruptors”? The “endocrine disruptor hypothesis” suggests that certain (mostly mad-made) chemicals interfere with human hormones (most often, estrogens are implicated) and cause a range of adverse health conditions related to the endocrine system. There are two classes of chemical compounds that can influence our hormonal systems: natural hormones and man-made substances. The former not only includes commonly known hormones like estrogen and testosterone, but also includes phytoestrogens, which are found in some plants such as soybean and alfalfa sprouts. The latter category can be split into the synthetically produced hormones and the man-made chemicals. Interestingly enough, the tide of public concern appears to be mostly preoccupied with the latter subcategory (manmade chemicals). By 1996, the federal government called for the screening and testing of chemicals and pesticides for possible endocrine disrupting effects by passing the new Food Quality Protection Act and amending the existing Safe Drinking Water Act. In response, the Environmental Protection Agency immediately convened an expert advisory panel and established the current Endocrine Disruptor Screening Program (EDSP) in August 1998. Unfortunately, the current state of affairs has progressed little since the late 1990s. After three different Presidents, 13 years, and untold tens of millions of dollars in Congressional funding, the EDSP has yet to screen a single compound, although EPA is poised to start screening pesticide compounds later this year.
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Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: 2009-08-01

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