The Endocrine Disruptor Screening Program: Where are we?

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Courtesy of Bergeson & Campbell, P.C.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) issued its final list of chemicals in the first group of substances that will be screened under the Endocrine Disruptor Screening Program (EDSP).1 Development of this list caps a long, thoughtful, and arduous administrative process that spans over a decade.

This “Washington Watch” column briefly reviews the development of the program, with emphasis on key elements of the current EDSP. The discussion also highlights the implications of the program for industry stakeholders.

Concerns About Potential Endocrine Disruptors

According to researchers, regulators, and other interested parties, a loosely defined class of substances referred to generally as “endocrine disruptors” are believed to interfere with the body’s endocrine system. Exposure to these substances under some circumstances is believed to result in adverse developmental, reproductive, neurological, and immune effects in both humans and wildlife.

Over the years, researchers have pointed to a growing list of anomalous health effects (including the feminization of certain male wild fish and male reproductive disorders in humans) that are believed to be attributable to endocrine disruptor substances.

Based on concern about the potential effects of exposure to endocrine disruptor substances, Congress included provisions in the Food Quality Protection Act of 1996 and the Safe Drinking Water Act Amendments of 1996 requiring EPA to identify, characterize, and regulate endocrine disrupting chemicals, as appropriate.

EDSTAC and Its Recommendations

To achieve this formidable Congressional goal, EPA first had to develop an appropriate conceptual approach for identifying and validating endocrine disrupting chemicals. As an initial step, the Agency established the Endocrine Disruptor Screening and Testing Advisory Committee (EDSTAC) in 1996.

EDSTAC, which consisted of representatives from diverse stakeholder groups, was charged with providing advice and recommendations to EPA regarding a strategy for determining whether chemical substances may have an effect on humans similar to effects produced by naturally occurring hormones.

EDSTAC began its deliberations in October 1996 and completed them in July 1998. The committee issued a final report on its findings on August 3, 1998.2 In its report, EDSTAC urged EPA to address endocrine effects; examine biological processes involving estrogen, androgen, and thyroid hormones; and include in its review pesticide chemicals, commercial chemicals, and environmental contaminants.

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