Traditional chemical risk assessment assumes a simple, linear relationship where lower dose or exposure commonly confers lower toxicity. However, endocrine-disrupting chemicals (EDCs) call for a new paradigm that acknowledges:
Complex mixtures of compounds found in nature.
Possibility that low level environmental exposure may still have significant and/or long-term biological impact. In certain instances, there may be no “safe dose.”
Heightened vulnerability by EDCs at certain life stages, such as prenatal, in utero, and adolescence.
Potential for certain EDCs to affect individuals across generations. This transgenerational impact is a growing area of science and medicine.
Putting the New Paradigm into Action: Grounded in Science, Guided by Evidence
In 2009, alarmed by discoveries in new research, the Endocrine Society set a precedent for dozens of scientific and medical organizations by being the first to take a public stance on EDCs. In 2015, we reviewed the latest science and developed a comprehensive Scientific Statement on what was known and gaps that existed in EDC research. Our statements:
Defined an EDC as a compound that, through environmental or developmental exposure, alters how an organism communicates and responds to the environment
Asserted that there is no endocrine system that is immune to EDC’s and that the effects may be transmitted to future generations (i.e., transgenerational)
Declared that the evidence for adverse reproductive outcomes is strong and mounting for effects in areas such as neuroendocrine, sexual development, obesity, metabolism, thyroid systems, and insulin resistance
Highlighted the “precautionary principle” for informing decisions about exposure and risk: Chemicals must be tested before being introduced into the environment
Encouraged scientific societies to partner with organizations with scientific and medical expertise to evaluate the effects of EDCs and communicate to other researchers, clinicians, community advocates, and politicians
These statements reflect our dedication to raise awareness, support research, and advocate for evidence-based regulatory decisions that protect public health and the environment. Combined with the work of our membership, the statements underscore our commitment to improving clinical well-being and furthering our scientific pursuits.
Centralized regulatory oversight and a precautionary approach until scientific evidence proves or disproves harmful effects, augmented by a federal campaign to inform the public about potential risks in the environment and food supply
Policies to be developed collaboratively by endocrinologists, toxicologists, epidemiologists, and policymakers
Development and public dissemination of rigorous research standards and protocols; research of outcomes at different periods of life; and the inclusion of endocrine scientists in policy development and regulations
Use of scientific data from both high- and low-level exposures and government support for further research
We oppose an economics-based (rather than science-based) definition of an EDC and “potency cutoff,” since it cannot be assumed that there are thresholds below which EDC exposures are safe.