A publication of Work On Waste USA, Inc., 82 Judson, Canton, NY 13617 315-379-9200 December 1992
Many toxic substances1 (e.g., 2,3,7,8-TCDD and other dioxins, 2,3,7,8-TCDF and other furans, HCB (hexachlorobenzene), certain PCB congeners, cadmium, lead and mercury) which are emitted from municipal, hazardous and medical waste incinerators are known to disrupt the endocrine system (the bodys hormonal or messenger system). At a Work Session at the Wingspread Conference Center, in Racine, Wisconsin, July 26-28, 1991, a statement was issued by a multi-disciplinary group of experts (see Waste Not #221 for names) researching endocrine disruption. We believe this statement is of such enormous importance that we are reprinting it in its entirety in Waste Not #s 220 through 221. The statement and the scientists supporting papers were published in:
At a time when the EPA is reassessing the cancer potency of dioxin, the Wingspread statement and related research are critical because [t]he cancer paradigm is insufficient when assessing chemicals like dioxin and furans. These chemicals can cause severe health effects other than cancer that are of a profound and insidious nature. It is incumbent on all of us who are concerned about eliminating the emissions of these dangerous substances into our environment and bodies to understand these insidious effects. We need to insure that the EPAs Reassessment accurately encompasses them. The public needs to grapple with this information so that we can combat the nonsense spouted by some of our public servants, e.g.:
The Problem. Many compounds introduced into the environment by human activity are capable of disrupting the endocrine system of animals, including fish, wildlife, and humans. The consequences of such disruption can be profound because of the crucial role hormones play in controlling development. Because of the increasing and pervasive contamination of the environment by compounds capable of such activity, a multidisciplinary group of experts gathered in retreat at Wingspread, Racine, Wisconsin, 26-28 July 1991 to assess what is known about the issue. Participants included experts in the fields of anthropology, ecology, comparative endocrinology, histopathology, immunology, mammalogy, medicine, law, psychiatry, psychoneuroendocrinology, reproductive physiology, toxicology, wildlife management, tumor biology, and zoology.
The purposes of the meeting were:
1. to integrate and evaluate findings from the diverse research disciplines concerning the magnitude of the problem of endocrine disruptors in the environment;
2. to identify the conclusions that can be drawn with confidence from existing data; and
3. to establish a research agenda that would clarify uncertainties remaining in the field.
Consensus Statement. The following consensus was reached by participants at the workshop.
1. We are certain of the following:
* A large number of man-made chemicals that have been released into the environment, as well as a few natural ones, have the potential to disrupt the endocrine system of animals, including humans. Among these are the persistent, bioaccumulative, organohalogen compounds that include some pesticides (fungicides,
herbicides, and insecticides) and industrial chemicals, other synthetic products and some metals.1
* Many wildlife populations are already affected by these compounds. The impacts include thyroid dysfunction in birds and fish; decreased fertility in birds, fish, shellfish, and mammals; decreased hatching success in birds, fish, and turtles; gross birth deformities in birds, fish, and turtles; metabolic abnormalities in birds, fish, and mammals; behavioral abnormalities in birds; demasculinization and feminization of male fish, birds and mammals; defeminization and masculinization of female fish and birds; and compromised immune systems in birds and mammals.
* The patterns of effects vary among species and among compounds. Four general points can nonetheless be made: (1) the chemicals of concern may have entirely different effects on the embryo, fetus, or perinatal organism than on the adult; (2) the effects are most often manifested in offspring, not in the exposed parent; (3) the timing of exposure in the developing organism is crucial in determining its character and future potential; and (4) although critical exposure occurs during embryonic development, obvious manifestations may not occur until maturity.
* Laboratory studies corroborate the abnormal sexual development observed in the field and provide biological mechanisms to explain the observations in wildlife.
* Humans have been affected by compounds of this nature, too. The effects of DES (diethylstilbestrol), a synthetic therapeutic agent, like many of the compounds mentioned above, are estrogenic. Daughters born to mothers who took DES now suffer increased rates of vaginal clear cell adenocarcinoma, various genital tract abnormalities, abnormal pregnancies, and some changes in immune responses. Both sons and daughters exposed in utero experience congenital anomalies of their reproductive system and reduced fertility. The effects seen in in utero DES-exposed humans parallel those found in contaminated wildlife and laboratory animals, suggesting that humans may be at risk to the same environmental hazards as wildlife.
2. We estimate with confidence that:
* Some of the developmental impairments reported in humans today are seen in adult offspring of parents exposed to synthetic hormone disruptors (agonists and antagonists) released in the environment. The concentrations of a number of synthetic sex hormone agonists and antagonists measured in the US human population today are well within the range and dosages at which effects are seen in wildlife populations. In fact, experimental results are being seen at the low end of current environmental concentrations.
* Unless the environmental load of synthetic hormone disruptors is abated and controlled, large scale dysfunction at the population level is possible. The scope and potential hazard to wildlife and humans are great because of the probability of repeated and/or constant exposure to numerous synthetic chemicals that are known to be endocrine disruptors.
* As attention is focused on this problem, more parallels in wildlife, laboratory, and human research will be revealed. (Statement continued to Waste Not # 221.)
1 Chemicals known to disrupt the endocrine system include: DDT and its degradation products, DEHP (di(2-ethylhexyl)phthalate), dicofol, HCB (hexachlorobenzene), kelthane, kepone, lindane and other hexachlorocyclohexane congeners, methoxychlor, octachlorostyrene, synthetic pyrethroids, triazine herbicides, EBDC fungicides, certain PCB congeners, 2,3,7,8-TCDD and other dioxins, 2,3,7,8-TCDF and other furans, cadmium, lead, mercury, tributyltin and other organo-tin compounds, alkyl phenols (non-biodegradable detergents and anti-oxidants present in modified polystyrene and PVCs), styrene dimers and trimers, soy products, and laboratory animal and pet food products.