Pesticide Action Network Updates Service (PANUPS)
Due to the serious hazard endocrine disruptors pose to wildlife and humans, Congress required EPA in the Food Quality Protection Act of 1996 to establish a screening and testing program for these chemicals. Although EPA has made some progress, no validated screens and tests have been put in place.
Exposure to endocrine disruptors is associated with reproductive, neurological, and behavioral problems. These chemicals can disrupt normal cellular communication, limit the production of chemical messengers and interfere with development of organs, the immune and nervous systems, reproductive function, and growth processes as well as increasing the incidence of specific diseases (e.g., childhood diabetes, childhood cancer, and thyroid diseases). Many pesticides are endocrine disrupting chemicals including aldicarb, atrazine, endosulfan and lindane (see the PANNA pesticide database for more information: http://www.pesticideinfo.org).
Scientific studies have found endocrine disruption in birds, fish, shellfish, mammals, alligators, and turtles. High concentrations of suspect chemicals have been found in whales, dolphins, porpoises, seals, and polar bears. Killer whales in the Pacific Northwest contain some of the highest concentrations of PCBs (an endocrine disruptor) found in wildlife. Bald eagles that nest along the shores of the Great Lakes and eat food contaminated with endocrine disrupting chemicals are experiencing continued reproductive problems. Canadian scientists have linked spraying of endocrine disrupting pesticides with declines in Atlantic salmon populations. Effects on wildlife include brain damage, premature deaths, reproductive problems, abnormal development of the reproductive tract, both subtle and gross birth defects, thyroid dysfunction, severely weakened immune systems, cancers, and behavioral changes.
Humans are also at risk. There is now a growing collection of studies revealing that some of these chemicals can affect children's ability to learn, to socially integrate, to fend off disease, and to reproduce. In most instances, there is no way to answer without great uncertainty how endocrine disruptors are affecting people, because there is no unexposed population to study as a control group and because scientists do not for ethical reasons conduct experiments on people. Nevertheless, there is disturbing evidence from studies in Michigan and New York that children whose mothers were exposed to PCBs from contaminated fish or other sources exhibit short-term memory and behavioral problems. As the children have grown, there has been a consistent correlation between their developmental problems and the PCBs (from fish or other sources) in their mothers while they were in the womb.
Hormones influence development even at extremely low doses: one-tenth of a trillionth of a gram. Low doses of endocrine disruptors have been found to cause disturbing and irreversible effects in male and female laboratory mice exposed prenatally to endocrine disruptors.
Unfortunately, since we only know the endocrine disruption effects of a tiny fraction of the thousands of synthetic chemicals released into our environment, research and testing of these chemicals is urgently needed. The U.S. Congress will soon make a decision regarding the EPA's funding request for vitally important programs to screen, test, and conduct research on endocrine disruptors.
To support further action on these hazardous chemicals, contact members of Congress as soon as possible and urge them to approve EPA's funding request for screening, testing, and conducting research on endocrine disrupting chemicals.
How to reach members of Congress: Call the U.S. Capitol switchboard at (202) 224-3121, look up your Senator on the U.S. Senate Web site at http://www.senate.gov or look up your Representative on the U.S. House of Representatives website at http://www.house.gov.
To send a free email message urging congressional representatives to support EPA's budget request for its endocrine disruptor programs go to http://takeaction.worldwildlife.org.
PANUPS is a weekly email news service providing resource guides and reporting on pesticide issues that don't always get coverage by the mainstream media. It's produced by Pesticide Action Network North America, a non-profit and non-governmental organization working to advance sustainable alternatives to pesticides worldwide.