The U.S. Food and Drug Administration last year said “the scientific evidence at this time does not suggest that the very low levels of human exposure to BPA through the diet are unsafe.” The FDA and U.S. Environmental Protection Agency are analyzing whether to restrict use of the chemical, which is used in polycarbonate plastic, canned food liners and some paper receipts.
The report also cites threats to wildlife, particularly killer whales and harbour seals. Both have high levels of PCBs and flame retardants that accumulate in ocean ecosystems.
One problem vexing those who study endocrine-disrupting chemicals is the vast number of them – about 800 are known – and how they may interact with one another. They’re in a variety of things – such as pesticides, flame retardants, plastics, cosmetics and canned foods – and research has only touched the “tip of the iceberg,” according to the report.
“The vast majority of chemicals in current commercial use have not been tested at all,” the authors wrote in the summary.
Unless we know where the chemicals are used, and they’re tested, it’s tough to make informed decisions on how to protect people, Woodruff said. But developed countries such as the United States have proven that they can greatly reduce exposures to contaminants they find problematic, such as air pollution, she said.
“We seem to be accepting as a society that it’s acceptable to load up our next generation with chemicals in an unregulated manner and hope they’re not bad,” Zoeller said. “We need to change that entire culture.”
The leader of the panel was Ake Bergman of Stockholm University, who has studied PCBs and related chemicals in Sweden for several decades. Others include Riana Bornman from Pretoria Academic Hospital in South Africa, Niels Erik Skakkebaek of University of Copenhagen in Denmark, Taisen Iguchi of the National Institutes of Natural Sciences in Japan, Susan Jobling of Brunel University in England and Derek Muir of Environment Canada, among others.
This article originally ran at Environmental Health News, a news source published by Environmental Health Sciences, a nonprofit media company.