A publication of Work On Waste USA, Inc., 82 Judson, Canton, NY 13617 315-379-9200 December 1992

The Wingspread Conference - July 1991
Chemically-Induced Alterations in
Sexual Development:
The Wildlife/Human Connection.

-- Conference statement continued from Waste Not # 220 --

3. Current models predict that:

* The mechanisms by which these compounds have their impact vary, but they share the general properties of (1) mimicking the effects of natural hormones by recognizing their binding sites; (2) antagonizing the effect of these hormones by blocking their interaction with their physiological binding sites; (3) reacting directly and indirectly with the hormone in question; (4) by altering the natural pattern of synthesis of hormones; or (5) altering hormone receptor levels.

* Both exogenous (external source) and endogenous (internal source) androgens (male hormones) and estrogens (female hormones) can alter the development of brain function.

* Any peturbation of the endocrine system of a developing organism may alter the development of that organism: typically these effects are irreversible. For example, many sex-related characteristics are determined hormonally during a window of time in the early stages of development and can be influenced by small changes in hormone balance. Evidence suggests that sex-related characteristics, once imprinted, may be irreversible.

* Reproductive effects reported in wildlife should be of concern to humans dependent upon the same resources, e.g., contaminated fish. Food fish is a major pathway of exposure for birds. The avian (bird) model for organochlorine endocrine disruption is the best described to date. It also provides support for the wildlife/human connection because of similarities in the development of the avian and mammalian endocrine systems.

4. There are many uncertainties in our predictions because:

* The nature and extent of the effects of exposure on humans are not well established. Information is limited concerning the disposition of these contaminants within humans, especially data on concentrations of contaminants in embryos. This is compounded by the lack of measurable endpoints (biologic markers of exposure and effect) and the lack of multi-generational exposure studies that simulate ambient concentrations.

* While there are adequate quantitative data concerning reductions in reproductive success in wildlife, data are less robust concerning changes in behavior. The evidence, however, is sufficient to call for immediate efforts to fill these knowledge gaps.

* The potencies of many synthetic estrogenic compounds relative to natural estrogens have not been established. This is important because contemporary blood concentrations of some of the compounds of concern exceed those of internally produced estrogens.

5. Our judgement is that:

* Testing of products for regulatory purposes should be broadened to include hormonal activity in vivo. There is no substitute for animal studies for this aspect of testing.

* Screening assays for androgenicity and estrogenicity are available for those compounds that have direct hormonal effects. Regulations should require screening all new products and by-products for hormonal activity. If the material tests positive, further testing for functional teratogenicity (loss of function rather than obvious gross birth defects) using multigenerational studies should be required. This should apply to all persistent, bioaccumulative products released in the past as well.

* It is urgent to move reproductive effects and functional teratogenicity to the forefront when evaluating health risks. The cancer paradigm is insufficient because chemicals can cause severe health effects other than cancer.

* A more comprehensive inventory of these compounds is needed as they move through commerce and are eventually released to the environment. This information must be made more accessible. Information such as this affords the opportunity to reduce exposure through containment and manipulation of food chains. Rather than separately regulating contaminants in water, air and land, regulatory agencies should focus on the ecosystem as a whole.

* Banning the production and use of persistent chemicals has not solved the exposure problem. New approaches are needed to reduce exposure to synthetic chemicals already in the environment and prevent the release of new products with similar characteristics.

* Impacts on wildlife and laboratory animals as a result of exposure to these contaminants are of such a profound and insidious nature that a major research initiative on humans must be undertaken.

* The scientific and public health communities’ general lack of awareness concerning the presence of hormonally active environmental chemicals, functional teratogenicity, and the concept of transgenerational exposure must be addressed. Because functional deficits are not visible at birth and may not be fully manifested until adulthood, they are often missed by physicians, parents, and the regulatory community, and the causal agent is never identified.

6. To improve our predictive capability:

* More basic research in the field of developmental biology of hormonally responsive organs is needed. For example, the amount of specific endogenous hormones required to evoke a normal response must be established. Specific biologic markers of normal development per species, organ, and stage of development are needed. With this information, levels that elicit pathological changes can be established.

* Integrated cooperative research is needed to develop both wildlife and laboratory models for extrapolating risks to humans.

* The selection of a sentinel species at each trophic level in an ecosystem is needed for observing functional deficits, while at the same time describing the dynamics of a compound moving through the system.

* Measurable endpoints (biologic markers) as a result of exposure to exogenous endocrine disruptors are needed that include a range of effects at the molecular, cellular, organismal, and population levels. Molecular and cellular markers are important for the early monitoring of dysfunction. Normal levels and patterns of isoenzymes and hormones should be established.

* In mammals, exposure assessments are needed based on body burdens of a chemical that describe the concentration of a chemical in an egg (ovum) which can be extrapolated to a dose of the chemical to the embryo, fetus, newborn, and adult. Hazard evaluations are needed that repeat in the laboratory what is being seen in the field. Subsequently, a gradient of doses for particular responses must be determined in the laboratory and then compared with exposure levels in wildlife populations.

* More descriptive field research is needed to explain the annual influx to areas of known pollution of migratory species that appear to maintain stable populations in spite of the relative vulnerability of their offspring.

* A reevaluation of the in utero DES-exposed population is required for a number of reasons. First, because the unregulated, large-volume releases of synthetic chemicals coincide with the use of DES, the results of the original DES studies may have been confounded by widespread exposure to other synthetic endocrine disruptors. Second, exposure to a hormone during fetal life may elevate responsiveness to the hormone during later life. As a result, the first wave of individuals exposed to DES in utero is just reaching the age where various cancers (vaginal, edometrial, breast, and prostatic) may start appearing if the individuals are at a greater risk because of perinatal exposure to estrogen-like compounds. A threshold for DES adverse effects is needed. Even the lowest recorded dose has given rise to vaginal adenocarcinoma. DES exposure of fetal humans may provide the most-severe-effect model in the investigation of the less potent effects from environmental estrogens. Thus, the biological endpoints determined in in utero DES-exposed offspring will lead the investigation in humans following possible ambient exposures.

* The effects of endocrine disruptors on longer-lived humans may not be as easily discerned as in shorter-lived laboratory or wildlife species. Therefore, early detection methods are needed to determine if human reproductive capability is declining. This is important from an individual level, as well as at the population level, because infertility is a subject of great concern and has psychological and economic impacts. Methods are now available to determine fertility rates in humans. New methods should involve more use of liver-enzyme-system activity screening, sperm counts, analyses of developmental abnormalities, and examination of histopathological lesions. These should be accompanied by more and better biomarkers of social and behavioral development, the use of multigenerational histories of individuals and their progeny, and congener-specific chemical analyses of reproductive tissues and products, including breast milk. End. The Wingspread Conference statement was signed by:

Dr. Howard A. Bern, Endocrinologist, Cancer Research Lab, U. of California, Berkeley, CA

Dr. Phyllis Blair, Prof. of Immunology, U. of California, Berkeley, CA

Sophie Brasseur, Marine Biologist, Research Institute for Nature Management, Texel, The Netherlands.

Dr. Theo Colborn, Senior Fellow, World Wildlife Fund, Inc., W. Alton Jones Foundation, Inc., Washington, DC

Dr. Gerald R. Cunha, Developmental Biologist, Dept. of Anatomy, U. of California, San Francisco, CA

Dr. William Davis, Research Ecologist, U.S. EPA, Environmental Research Lab, Sabine Island, FL

Dr. Klaus D. Dohler, Director Research, Pharma Bissendorf Peptide GmbH, Hannover, Germany

Mr. Glen Fox, Contaminants Evaluator, National Wildlife Research Center, Environment Canada, Quebec, Canada.

Dr. Michael Fry, Research Faculty, Dept. of Avian Science, U. of California, Davis, CA.

Dr. Earl Gray, Section Chief, Dev. & Reproductive Toxicology Section, U.S. EPA, Research Triangle Park, N.C.

Dr. Richard Green, Prof. of Psychiatry in Residence, School of Medicine, U. of California, Los Angeles, Ca.

Dr. Melissa Hines, Asst. Prof. in Residence, Dept. of Psychiatry, School of Medicine, U. of California, Los Angeles,CA.

Mr. Timothy Kubiak, Environmental Contaminants Specialist, Dept. of Interior, U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service,E.Lansing, MI

Dr. John McLachlan, Director, Div. of Intramural Research, Chief, Laboratory of Reproductive & Developmental Toxicology, National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences, Research Triangle Park, N.C.

Dr. J.P. Myers, Director, W. Alton Jones Foundation, Inc., Charlottesville, VA.

Dr. Richard Peterson, Prof. of Toxicology & Pharmacology, School of Pharmacy, Univ. of Wisconsin, Madison, WI.

Dr. P.J.H. Reijnders, Head, Section of Marine Mammalogy, Research Institute for Nature Management, Texel, Netherlands.

Dr. Ana Soto, Associate Prof., Dept of Anatomy & Cellular Biology, Tufts Univ. School of Medicine, Boston, MA.

Dr. Glen Van Der Kraak, Asst. Prof., College of Biological Sciences, Dept. of Zoology, Univ. of Guelph, Ontario, Canada.

Dr. Frederick vom Saal, Prof., College of Arts & Sciences, Div. of Biological Sciences, Univ. of Missouri, Columbia, MO.

Dr. Pat Whitten, Asst. Prof., Dept. of Anthropology, Emory University, Atlanta, GA

WASTE NOT # 221. A publication of Work on Waste USA, published 48 times a year. Annual rates are: Groups & Non-Profits $50; Students & Seniors $35; Individual $40; Consultants & For-Profits $125; Canadian $US45; Overseas $65. Editors: Ellen & Paul Connett, 82 Judson Street, Canton, NY 13617. Tel: 315-379-9200. Fax: 315-379-0448.