Defining Endocrine Disruption
Endocrine Disruption Broadly Defined
In the very early weeks of prenatal development, when one’s entire existence is just a cluster of cells, minute concentrations of chemicals can potentially disrupt any of our biological systems. It is a mistake to try to comprehend the myriad effects of endocrine disrupting chemicals by assessing only reproductive and developmental endpoints and a few hormones. Hundreds of scientific studies have demonstrated endocrine impairment in the central nervous system, the immune and metabolic systems, and many glands and organs. Newly discovered alterations by endocrine disruptors in the gene, molecule and cell environment may have repercussions that do not manifest for decades and can be passed through many generations.
New legislation regulating toxic chemicals that narrowly defines endocrine disruption as reproduction and development, or that addresses chemicals one at a time, or one disorder at a time, will clearly fail to protect us in the long run. Broadly defining endocrine disruption now is a gift we must give to future generations, for whom the words ‘endocrine disruption’ will unfortunately be as common as the word cancer is today.
Link to the on-line published essay: Colborn T. 2010 Nov 4. Endocrine disruption, public health, and national and international security [A response to the question, "What emerging environmental hazard should be next on the policy agenda?" from the Environmental Health Policy Institute of Physicians for Social Responsibility] or download the essay (pdf).