Issues and controversies
Endocrine disruption is a complex and controversial
field. This section focuses on some of the key issues.
At what levels can endocrine disrupters
be active? How can we deal with inconsistent results? What
is a low dose anyway?
The chemical industry is still manufacturing
and using chemicals which persist in the environment or accumulate
in our bodies. Even if these chemicals are not known to be toxic
at this moment, if they are found to be in five or ten years
there is no way of removing them from our bodies or the environment.
There is more information on the dangers posed by such chemicals
in the Friends of the Earth briefing 'Poisoning
our children: the dangers of exposure to untested and toxic chemicals'.
In addition, WWF has recently produced a comprehensive review
of the hundreds of chemicals that contaminate breast milk - the
executive summary is available
here, the press release here.
There are international negotiations underway
to phase out a small group of persistent and bioaccumulative
chemicals - see the policy page.
Exposure to mixtures
All human exposure to chemicals is as mixtures.
Mixtures with other chemicals in the same product, mixtures with
chemicals already contaminating our bodies etc. These mixtures
may have additive effects - adding together the activities of
each element, as happens with many oestrogen mimicking chemicals,
or may even have synergistic effects.
Regulatory systems basically ignore mixtures,
partly because the science of mixtures is very complex. But mixtures
are reality - and must be considered. The Friends of the Earth
site includes discussion of how regulation can be improved to
protect people more effectively; proposals are outlined in the
The precautionary principle is about acting
on uncertain data to protect human heath. BSE and vCJD ('Mad
Cow Disease') is a model example of where the precautionary principle
was not followed. What went wrong?
The regulation of chemicals
If a chemical is an endocrine disrupter,
should it automatically be banned? We are always exposed to mixtures
- can the regulatory process incorporate this? What can be done
about persistent or bioaccumulative chemicals? Do we have enough
information about chemicals to predict their safety?
Is there a sustainable way of using chemicals,
to ensure the maximum protection for people and the environment?
These issues are discussed on Friends
of the Earth's Safer Chemicals Campaign site.