Last week I wrote about  how a consensus statement released by the German Federal Institute for Risk Assessment (BfR) on criteria for identifying endocrine disrupting chemicals (EDCs) supported a risk-based approach to identifying and managing EDCs, but ironically, the EU nevertheless seems stubbornly committed to taking a hazard-only based approach to the issue.  Such a decision is likely to lead to fewer choices and higher costs for European consumers without resulting in any real public health benefits.

Very much concerned about the direction that the European Commission might take on EDCs, a small group of distinguished European scientists (Prof. Sir Colin Berry, Prof. Alan Boobis, Prof. Wolfgang Dekant, Prof. Daniel Dietrich, Prof. Helmut Greim, Prof. Pat Heslop-Harrison and Prof. Richard Sharpe) who are well-known experts on the topics of chemical risk assessment and endocrine active compounds, recently initiated a meeting with Dr. Vytenis Andriukaitis, Commissioner of Health&Food Safety during which they expressed identical concerns to the ones raised in my initial blog entry.  Afterward, four of them, including three who signed the BfR consensus statement, took the unprecedented step of issuing a press release. in which they expressed their frustration “…it was emphasized that identification of EDCs is only the first step in the risk assessment of EDCs, but that potency and consideration of likely human exposure are necessary for any adequate evaluation of the human or environmental effects of EDCs”.

During their meeting with Dr. Andriukaitis and in the follow-up press release these well-respected scientists made the following additional points:

  • Public perception about EDCs and subsequent input to the European Parliament and Commission, are currently being dominated by a small group of scientists, NGOs and well-funded pressure groups, who categorically assert that EDCs and, even chemicals that display endocrine activity, but don't truly fulfill all the criteria to be confirmed as EDCs (i.e., they haven't been shown to cause adverse effects through an endocrine-mediated pathway) contribute to human cancer, reproductive disorders, obesity and type 2 diabetes. 

  • The reality is that there is no robust, consistent scientific evidence to support such a dogmatic stance, and indeed most of the robust evidence points in the opposite direction.

  • Furthermore, there is no scientific justification for treating EDCs as a special casewhen considering their potential to do harm.  

  • A substantial body of clinical evidence in humans demonstrates that thresholds of effect and safe dose levels can be established for EDCs and thus they can be managed according to the same well-established science and risk-based principles and processes as pertains to other chemical agents. 

These scientists concluded by saying that they “...are confident that the current regulatory criteria for all potential EDCs can be developed by the Commission with the input of experienced toxicologists, endocrinologists and risk assessment professionals to enable the safe use of many compounds in a range of applications. In so doing, this will be achieved in a manner that ensures protection of human health and the environment, whilst maintaining the sustainability and competitiveness of the European economy.

I applaud these scientists for their willingness to speak-out against pseudoscience and potentially bad regulation.  They represent a silent majority who either do not have the time to engage on the issue or fear retribution from the pressure groups for doing so.