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David Wallinga, M.D. Headshot

Greater Action Urged on Hormone-Busting Chemicals

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The world's largest public health group, the American Public Health Association (APHA), has just announced new policy calling for greater government action to protect the public from hormone-disrupting chemicals in the food supply.

Congress and government regulators should pay attention. APHA's policy statement follows official positions released earlier in 2010 by both the American Medical Association (AMA) and the Endocrine Society, the nation's premier professional association for medical experts in hormone physiology and medicine.

We now live amidst a virtual sea of synthetic environmental pollutants that can mimic or disrupt hormone function. Perhaps not surprisingly, a slew of hormone-related diseases -- costly to treat -- are common or on the rise. They include many cancers, obesity, diabetes, thyroid disease and infertility and other reproductive problems.

Much of our exposure to these endocrine disrupting chemicals (EDCs) comes via a contaminated food supply. EDCs known or identified include several dozen pesticides and fungicides, arsenic, industrial pollutants like PCBs and dioxins, plastic monomers like bisphenol A, plastic additives like phthalates, as well as pharmaceuticals.

APHA's resolution supports several steps, including recommending that federal agencies with regulatory oversight for various individual EDCs better coordinate amongst themselves given the scientific "recognition that collectively EDCs likely will have common or overlapping effects on the endocrine system."

Specifically, the APHA policy urges government agencies to better regulate and restrict human exposure to EDCs in the food chain. The government should heed data on the ability of these hormone-like chemicals to have significant effects even at "low-dose" or minute levels of exposure, in addition to the more conventional assumption in toxicology that looks only at high-level effects.

The message from the public health community on EDCs is clear and urgent: time to act. The APHA resolution can be viewed here.