The Endocrine Society has continued to expand its advocacy program internationally by proactively engaging on several fronts with key policymakers and collaborators. First branching out into the European Union in 2012, the Society has continued its international efforts by becoming active in the debate among global policymaking bodies. By partnering with pivotal international organizations, the Society broadens its reach and amplifies its message that endocrine science is central in the identification, study, and regulation of endocrine-disrupting chemicals (EDCs), which represent a global concern for the environment, wildlife, and human health.
Society members can become involved in these efforts by volunteering to convey the Society’s central messages to key policymakers in their countries. Volunteer opportunities are available at Th e Endocrine Society’s booth at ENDO 2013 or by contacting the government and public affairs department at [email protected] Members who do not wish to volunteer can still contribute to the Society’s advocacy efforts by stopping by the booth to sign a letter to global policymakers in support of the Society’s positions on EDCs.
In the European Union (EU), the Society has collaborated with the Brussels-based Health and Environment Alliance (HEAL) to meet with Members of the European Parliament (MEPs), Directorates General (DGs) of the European Commission, and World Health Organization (WHO). In these meetings, Society member volunteers have been pivotal in presenting the endocrine perspective to policymakers in the European Union who are grappling with revising and refining the EU’s approach to defining and regulating EDCs.
In December 2012, Society representative Jean Pierre Bourguignon, MD, partnered with HEAL to meet with MEP Anne Delvaux (conservative, Belgium) and MEP Frederique Ries (liberal, Belgium). Th ese meetings came during deliberations by the Parliament’s Committee on Environment, Public Health, and Food Safety on a report— presented by MEP Asa Westlund—on the protection of public health from endocrine disruptors. Th e report, which Parliament passed in March by a vote of 489–102, calls on the Commission to strengthen the science base and regulatory requirements for EDCs. The report references the Society’s 2009 Scientific Statement on EDCs, and the report’s provisions are strongly aligned with the Society’s policies. Some specific actions requested are: application of the precautionary principle; consideration of mixtures, long-term effects, and irreversible effects during critical windows of development; consideration of EDCs as nonthreshold substances; consideration of the entire scientific literature, including academic studies, in the risk assessment of EDCs; and increased research efforts in the field.
The report has no legislative weight but conveys the position of the European Parliament to the European Commission as it prepares to revise the EU’s strategy on EDCs and to define the official criteria by which EDCs will be identified and categorized for EU law. The strategy will guide further legislative revisions and adjustments, as well as other efforts, including international cooperation and research support. The criteria will be officially deployed for the pesticides and biocides legislation, and will be applied to other legislation in due course. In February, R. Thomas Zoeller, PhD, presented the Society’s Statement of Principles to the Expert Advisory Group on Endocrine Disruptors during the fifth meeting of commission services, European agencies, and member states in Ispra, Italy. Subsequently, Zoeller and Bourguignon again partnered with HEAL in Brussels to meet with members of the DG Environment, DG Health & Consumer Affairs, and WHO. These combined activities served to expand the Society’s efforts to convey its message to those charged with formulating and implementing EU regulations. To reach an even broader audience, meetings were also held with the media and with other European nongovernmental organizations interested in issues of health and the environment.
The Society has recently expanded its international work beyond the EU, partnering with IPEN, a global network of public interest organizations, to advocate for global action on EDCs. IPEN serves as the principal public-interest focal point for over 700 nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) in the Strategic Approach to International Chemicals Management (SAICM), a UN global policy framework that represents a commitment by the world’s governments to achieve the sound management of chemicals so that “chemicals are produced and used in ways that minimize signifi cant adverse impacts on human health and the environment.” More than 100 governments participate in SAICM and its governing body—the International Conference on Chemicals Management (ICCM)—along with the chemical industry, NGOs, and other key stakeholders. ICCM meets every three years to assess implementation and evaluate additional issues that SAICM needs to address. At its third and most recent meeting, ICCM3 in 2012 in Nairobi, the ICCM officially acknowledged that EDCs are a global issue. ICCM3 recognized by consensus the “…potential adverse effects of endocrine disruptors on human health and the environment” and “…the need to protect humans, and ecosystems and their constituent parts that are especially vulnerable.” The decision called for several actions, including “advice on translation of research results into control actions.”
In an April 21 letter to key institutions responsible for implementing EDC actions under SAICM, The Endocrine Society and IPEN urged progress on these actions and encouraged the involvement of endocrinologists and the Society as key scientific experts. To strengthen their case, both groups sought signatures from prominent scientists in the field, and a number of scientists in key countries signed the letter. Society members from across the globe with expertise and interest in EDCs were among the signatories, including co-authors of a number of high-profile reports—the Society’s Scientific Statement and Statement of Principles, a 2012 Endocrine Reviews article on low-dose effects of EDCs, and the recent report on EDCs by WHO and the UN Environment Program (UNEP).
The collaboration with IPEN marks a bold step forward by the Society in disseminating its messages to the global chemicals policy community and holds the potential to put endocrine science right where it needs to be – in the center of the discussion on the effects of EDCs.
By working with pivotal partners such as HEAL and IPEN, the Society has the opportunity to change the tenor of the global EDC discussion so that the endocrinology of endocrine disruptors is considered during important policy and regulatory decisions. Just as the effects of EDCs are not bound by borders, neither are the principles of endocrinology that help delineate and predict those effects. As the preeminent global organization devoted to endocrine research and the clinical practice of endocrinology, The Endocrine Society’s membership represents the richest source of expertise in the field of endocrine disruption. The Society is well positioned to effect change in the approach to the study, assessment, and regulation of EDCs.