In a recently issued statement of principles, The Endocrine Society proposed a streamlined definition of endocrine-disrupting chemicals (EDCs). “Endocrine-Disrupting Chemicals and Public Health Protection: A Statement of Principles from The Endocrine Society” clarifies the definition of an EDC and outlines the key concepts of endocrinology needed to ensure that regulatory decisions are based on the cuttingedge science of the last decade.
The statement defines an endocrine disruptor as an exogenous chemical, or mixture of chemicals, that interferes with any aspect of hormone action. It also includes several recommendations designed to strengthen screening for EDCs. In June, the new statement was presented to the news media at an ENDO 2012 press conference and released online. It will also appear in the September issue of Endocrinology.
In 2009, the Society released a Scientific Statement on EDCs in which it made a number of recommendations regarding research and regulation of such chemicals. In subsequent discussions, policy makers asked the Society specifically how to improve the regulatory process. In response to these questions, the Society developed the statement of principles, which has been presented in a number of settings, including the Society’s first international meeting on EDCs.
The Society presented the latest statement to policymakers and various interest groups assembled in Brussels in June by the European Commission. Like the United States, the European Union (EU) faces the complex and complicated problem of regulating EDCs under a number of legislative vehicles. The Commission is charged with providing criteria for the assessment of, and regulatory decisions about, the endocrine-disrupting properties of chemicals by December 2013.
The Commission specifically requested the perspective of the Society, the only endocrinology group to contribute to the European EDC debate. R. Thomas Zoeller, Ph.D., the statement’s lead author, presented the key points of the statement of principles to the assembled group of more than 250 policymakers, regulators, scientists, non-governmental organizations, and industry representatives from the United States, the European Union, and other nations. He stressed the importance of incorporating endocrinology into the risk assessment paradigms for EDCs and of engaging endocrinologists in the design and interpretation of studies that guide regulation.
The Society also met with U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Acting Assistant Administrator Jim Jones and his staff in May to review the principles, which the statement frames in the context of the EPA’s Endocrine Disruptor Screening Program (EDSP). The EPA has regulatory authority over EDCs through the Food Quality Protection Act and under amendments to the Safe Drinking Water Act. During the meeting, the Society and EPA discussed ways in which the organizations can collaborate to improve EDC screening and testing.
During a Horizons@Heinz lecture series briefing in May sponsored by the H. John Heinz III Center for Science, Economics, and the Environment in Washington, D.C., the Society pressed U.S. policy makers to incorporate endocrine principles into the EDSP and other risk assessment programs that test chemicals for endocrine activity. The lecture series raises the profile of urgent and emerging issues through national and international policy debate.
The chair of the lecture program invited the Society to participate in the event because of its leadership in the science and policy of endocrinedisrupting chemicals. Among the attendees were Senators John Kerry (DMA) and Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI). Congressional staff and representatives of federal agencies, including the EPA, Food and Drug Administration, and the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy, also attended. Advocacy groups, media, green chemists, industry, and the French Embassy were also represented.
The Society’s Commitment
At all of these forums, Zoeller described critical principles of endocrinology that differ from those of classic toxicology and recommended changes to the regulatory process to ensure it is equipped to identify potential endocrine-disrupting activity. The Society will continue to work domestically and internationally to ensure that the decisions being made by regulators incorporate the latest endocrine science available for evaluating EDCs.