EPA moves to test 67 pesticides for hormonal activity

We’ve been talking a lot lately in Water Ways about potential endocrine disruptors. It seems that trace amounts of chemicals with potential effects on hormonal systems are turning up everywhere researchers take the time to look, from local streams to large estuaries — and they may be coming from common household products.

The latest development is an announcement this week by the Environmental Protection Agency, which is finally moving into a program to test chemicals on the market, beginning with 67 pesticides.

The following is a story I wrote for today’s Kitsap Sun. If you wish to dig further, a good deal of information can be found on EPA’s Web site dealing with the Endocrine Disruptor Screening Program.


The Environmental Protection Agency will soon order the manufacturers of 67 pesticides to conduct tests to determine if chemical ingredients in their products can affect the hormonal systems of humans and animals.

These upcoming orders mark the beginning of a massive chemical screening program first envisioned in 1996, when Congress passed the Food Quality Protection Act. The law called for testing potential endocrine disrupters, chemicals that interfere with body systems regulated by hormones, which travel through the blood.

Environmental and health advocates have long worried that common chemicals may be interfering with growth, reproduction and metabolism by triggering unnatural responses by endocrine glands. These glands include the pituitary, thyroid and adrenal glands, along with ovaries in females and testes in males.

“Endocrine disrupters can cause lifelong health problems — especially for children,” EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson said in a statement. “Gathering this information will help us work with communities and industry to protect Americans from harmful exposure.”

Studies have linked endocrine disrupters to declining human sperm counts and potential breast cancers. In addition, wildlife have been reported with malformed sexual organs, sterility and a variety of physical abnormalities — including tadpoles that grow multiple legs. Connecting abnormalities to specific chemicals has been difficult, because scientists aren’t sure which ones interfere with specific hormonal functions.

The initial 67 pesticides to be tested were selected because of their high potential for human exposure — such as through food and water — not because they are known or likely to be endocrine disrupters, Jackson said. EPA’s Endocrine Disrupter Screening Program will eventually be expanded to include all pesticide chemicals.

“This move by the EPA is a huge step in the right direction for protecting kids,” said Ivy Sager-Rosenthal, environmental health advocate for the Seattle-based Washington Toxics Coalition. “By doing this testing, we will have a lot more information about whether these chemicals have an effect. Then we can take regulatory action down the line.”

Under revised policies and procedures, the EPA will require the testing of “inert” ingredients, which environmentalists say may be contributing unknown effects. Environmental advocates often have been unable to obtain a full list of ingredients for a product, let alone how much is present.

The new procedures will allow manufacturers to work together to test chemicals, share costs and protect confidential business information.

The EPA’s screening program has been delayed by discussions about setting priorities for which chemicals should be tested first, what kind of tests should be conducted and how specific tests should be designed.

About a dozen kinds of tests have been evaluated for testing certain kinds of chemicals. They include measuring hormonal activity in mice and rats, looking for physical and behavioral abnormalities in fish and frogs, examining effects in tissues taken from animals, and using computer models to estimate effects based on chemical structure.

One thought on “EPA moves to test 67 pesticides for hormonal activity

  1. Considering the huge pesticide/herbicide chemical companies are among the largest and most likely, profitable big business, I’m surprised and pleased that testing will commence.

    Our future depends on it…
    Sharon O’Hara

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