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EPA to Evaluate 134 Chemicals for Endocrine Disruption

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency  has released a list of 134 chemicals that will be screened for their potential to disrupt the endocrine system. Endocrine disruptors are chemicals that interact with and possibly disrupt the hormones produced or secreted by the human or animal endocrine system, which regulates growth, metabolism and reproduction.

According to EPA’s press release, the agency compiled the list as another step to ensure public safety from potential chemical hazards.

“Endocrine disruptors represent a serious health concern for the American people, especially children. Americans today are exposed to more chemicals in our products, our environment and our bodies than ever before, and it is essential that EPA takes every step to gather information and prevent risks,” EPA Administrator Lisa P. Jackson said in a prepared statement. “We are using the best available science to examine a larger list of chemicals and ensure that they are not contaminating the water we drink and exposing adults and children to potential harm.”

The list includes chemicals that have been identified as priorities under the Safe Drinking Water Act (SDWA) and may be found in sources of drinking water where a substantial number of people may be exposed. The list also includes pesticide active ingredients that are being evaluated under EPA’s registration review program to ensure they meet current scientific and regulatory standards. The data generated from the screens will provide robust and systematic scientific information to help EPA identify whether additional testing is necessary, or whether other steps are necessary to address potential endocrine disrupting chemicals.

The chemicals listed include those used in products such as solvents, gasoline, plastics, personal care products, pesticides, and pharmaceuticals, including benzene, perchlorate, urethane, ethylene glycol, and erythromycin.

A cursory review of the chemicals selected reveals that the list contains several chemicals that have previously been identified by EPA and other scientific or regulatory bodies as carcinogens and reproductive toxins.  However, the new list provides a few surprises, such as the inclusion of styrene, perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA), the chemical used to manufacture the non-stick coating in teflon, and perfluorooctane sulfonic acid, or PFOS, a chemical used in Scotchgard and other consumer products.

EPA’s list omits several controversial chemicals that are strongly suspected of causing endocrine disruption such as Bisphenol A, commonly known as BPA,  heavy metals such as lead, arsenic, cadmium and mercury, and a family of six toxic plastic chemicals collectively known as phthalates.

According to EPA the chemicals included on the new list were selected by focusing on a subset of chemicals and substances that have been listed as priorities within EPA’s drinking water and pesticides programs.  The agency then looked at unregulated chemicals listed on its third Contaminant Candidate List because these represent many of the priority contaminants for the drinking water program. EPA also looked at pesticides that were scheduled for registration review in 2007 and 2008.

In addition to publishing the list, EPA also announced draft policies and procedures that the agency will follow to order testing, minimize duplicative testing, promote equitable cost-sharing, and to address issues that are unique to chemicals regulated under the SDWA.

After public comment and review, EPA will issue test orders to pesticide registrants and the manufacturers of these chemicals to compel them to generate data to determine whether their chemicals may disrupt the estrogen, androgen and thyroid pathways of the endocrine system.

EPA is already screening an initial group of 67 pesticide chemicals. In October 2009, the agency issued orders to companies requiring endocrine disruptor screening program data for these chemicals. EPA will begin issuing orders for this second group of 134 chemicals beginning in 2011.

According to EPA, the agency has the most comprehensive mandated testing program for hormone effects in the world. The program is the result of a multi-year effort that began in 1996.

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