Report outlines effects of low-dose exposure to endocrine-disrupting chemicals

A new report outlines a strategy to improve the ability of regulators at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to evaluate whether certain chemicals might cause hormone-related health effects at low doses. The strategy is aimed at supplementing existing EPA toxicity testing, which the authors say can miss harms from exposure to endocrine active chemicals (EACs) in small concentrations.

The report, by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Committee on Endocrine-Related Low-Dose Toxicity, was released on July 18, 2017. Russ Hauser, Frederick Lee Hisaw Professor of Reproductive Physiology at Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, is a member.

Exposure to EACs can have lasting and significant health effects, particularly during embryonic development. For this report, the committee reviewed data around two types of EACs: phthalates (found in a range of products including toys and cosmetics) and PBDEs (used as flame retardants). They found that exposure in utero to DEHP–a type of phthalate used as a plasticizer–was linked to declines in male reproductive hormones, and that exposure to PDBEs may affect intelligence.

According to the researchers, more information is needed on the movement of chemicals within the body to better evaluate an EAC’s potential to cause health effects in humans at low doses.

Recommendations by Hauser and his co-authors include increased surveillance of a variety of data sources for signs that a chemical may be affecting health, systematic reviews of evidence around any such signal, and updating chemical assessments.