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For over 10 years, endocrine disrupting chemicals (EDCs) have been on the agenda of the European Union (EU), from the funding of research concerning impacts on human health and the environment, to discussions about which policy measures are needed to reduce public exposure to EDCs.
In December 1999, when the EU Commission issued the Strategy on Endocrine Disruptors,1 researchers had already recorded impacts on wildlife in polluted areas throughout the world (eg, reproductive and immune problems in Baltic seals). Links were being drawn to human diseases and disorders, such as testicular, breast and prostate cancers, decline in sperm counts, reproductive organ deformities, thyroid dysfunction, intelligence and neurological problems.1
Twelve years on, the volume of scientific research is enormous and continues to grow. The health conditions associated with EDCs have multiplied, and several scientific consensus statements give recommendations to policy makers, with two emerging this year.2–6
However, despite some policy advances in regulating EDCs, serious delays still exist between the publication of new science, the recognition of these hazards in law, and reductions in public exposure to EDCs. For some, this delay is because the traditional risk assessment/risk management approach, with its use of threshold concepts and omission of low doses, critical windows and transgenerational effects, does not yet provide compelling evidence of real harm, and hence, effective policies cannot be designed. Those of us who advocate for swifter action view the science and believe rather that the traditional approach has significant blind spots to the characteristics of EDCs. Moreover, it is also about protecting public health before it is too little, too late, to avoid mistakes like those made with asbestos or …
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