Joint bill would enable government action on chemicals found dangerous to the environment/public health
Today, Congressman Jim Moran of Northern Virginia and Senator John Kerry of Massachusetts introduced legislation to explore linkages between hormone disrupting chemicals in the environment and everyday goods and the dramatic increase of autism, hyperactivity, diabetes, obesity, breast cancer, prostate cancer and other hormone related disorders.
For years, scientists have noted strange anomalies in fish and wildlife in locations where endocrine disrupting chemicals (EDCs) are found. In the Potomac River, a recent study found an astounding 100 percent of small mouth bass in certain sites of the basin exhibited both male and female organs, a characteristic linked to EDCs.
“These fish are the proverbial “˜canaries in the coal mine,’ a symptom of a larger sickness in our environment. The implications for humans are real and deeply troubling,” said Congressman Moran, who worked with experts for roughly a year to craft the legislation.
“We need facts driven by science, not politics, ideology, or powerful interests, when it comes to understanding the risks associated with chemicals – especially where there’s real concern about harmful developmental disorders in children,” Senator Kerry said after introducing the companion bill in the Senate. “The better we understand these chemicals, the better equipped we’ll be to protect kids and the public.”
EDCs are thought to be harmful because they interfere with the body’s endocrine system where hormones are used to regulate human development, metabolism, growth, and reproduction. These man-made chemicals are used in everyday materials but appearing in increasing levels throughout the environment. “From laundry detergent to pesticides, from fire retardant clothing to plastic baby bottles, these products are potential vehicles for human exposure to EDCs whose long term health effects are unknown,” Moran said.
The Endocrine Disruption Prevention Act of 2009 [H.R. 4190] would facilitate the research necessary to determine whether these chemicals are affecting human health. Specifically, the act would authorize an ambitious new research program at the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences to identify EDCs and establish an independent panel of scientists to oversee research and develop a prioritized list of chemicals for investigation. If the panel determined that a chemical presented even a minimal level of concern, it would compel the federal agencies with established regulatory authority to report to Congress and propose next steps within six months.
The inadequacy of the current federal effort was highlighted this October, when the Environmental Protection Agency unveiled the first phase of tests to determine the presence of endocrine disrupting chemicals under an initiative commissioned by Congress in 1996. Despite more than a decade’s time, the tests are limited to only a handful of pesticides and are based on science that many consider outdated.
“The new approach proposed by the Endocrine Disruption Prevention Act””including the creation of an independent task force of leading scientists””will improve existing government efforts so we can finally get the kind of timely, accurate, practical data we need to protect public health,” said Moran. “Under this bill, science, not politics and bureaucracy, will set the stage for regulatory action.”
The Endocrine Disruption Prevention Act has been endorsed by The Endocrine Society, the world’s largest and most active professional organization of endocrinologists, representing over 14,000 members worldwide, and by over 160 independent scientists from around the world.