One of the chemicals on EPA’s list, atrazine, is a herbicide reported in aquatic and drinking water systems across the USA. It will likely pass this battery of tests with flying colors even though it feminizes laboratory animals and frogs by turning on the enzyme that converts testosterone to estrogen. EPA is proposing an assay to detect chemicals that can block that enzyme, but it cannot detect chemicals that turn it on.
EPA’s testing program is full of voids, addressing only a segment of the organs, tissues, and systems that make up the endocrine system. It will not detect chemicals that can alter development and function of the pancreas, and its hormone, insulin, which could lead to diabetes and obesity. It also will not detect chemicals that alter how the brain is constructed and programmed that can undermine intelligence and behavior. An insecticide--like chlorpyrifos, which alters how brains develop and leads to measurable changes in behavior and function later in life--will probably not be picked up by the proposed tests.
In light of the increasing pandemics and the new administration’s willingness to seek and make 180 degree changes, the time is ripe to move forward and let the scientists who understand the complexity of the endocrine system step in. Give these scientists, who have proven that they can think outside the box and inside the womb, the opportunity and wherewithal to design a couple of comprehensive, multi-organ assays to detect the most sensitive alterations in embryonic and fetal development and function. These assays that will ultimately reduce the use of thousands of animals and make up for the time lost over the past decade. Thanks to the internet, a rich set of data about endocrine disruption research is available, and with teleconferencing, scientists no longer have to leave their labs and travel long distances to communicate in large group sessions. These scientists are on the verge of developing protocols that will look nothing like what was done in the past to address a serious global health problem.
This article originally ran at Environmental Health News, a news source published by Environmental Health Sciences, a nonprofit media company.