EPA to Take a Closer Look at Risk of Low-level Toxin Exposure

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Last March, a group of scientists published a report calling for more investigation into the potentially harmful effects of exposure to low levels of endocrine disruptors, such as bisphenol A (BPA). “Current testing paradigms are missing important, sensitive endpoints” for human health, stated the report. “The effects of low doses cannot be predicted by the effects observed at high doses. Thus, fundamental changes in chemical testing and safety determination are needed to protect human health.”

The EPA is finally responding to this report by collaborating with other federal agencies to determine whether traces of chemicals found in food, cosmetics, pesticides, and plastics affect human development and reproduction. They will also determine whether current testing of hormone effects is accurate. They expect to publish a “state of the science” report by the end of 2013.

Frederick vom Saal, co-author of the March report, noted, “I’m thrilled that they’re doing this and it’s desperately needed. Hopefully it won’t take long and we can stop asking whether there are low-dose effects and then deal with the fact that there are.” He said, “You cannot test a hormone like you would a toxicant. A chemical that adds or subtracts to hormones already in your body is going to have effects at low levels.”

Let’s hope this is a turn for the better, and that it helps to change, sooner rather than later, the way toxins are assessed. I’ll be sure to report when the EPA’s paper is published. In the meantime, try to reduce your exposure to endocrine disrupting hormones by reducing use of plastics when possible (especially heating food in plastics—don’t do it), and using BPA-free plastics and cans when possible.