Congress Considering Banning BPA From Food Packaging

Despite finding that there wasn't enough evidence to ban BPAs last year, Congress is reconsidering legislation

Despite activists' multiple attempts to get the FDA to ban the chemical bisphenol A (BPA), containers we eat and drink out of could still easily contain the contentious substance.

Consumerist reports that Congress is once again considering a BPA ban, with new legislation from Congressman Edward J. Markey of Massachusetts. The Ban Poisonous Additives Act of 2013 would prohibit using BPA in food packaging and reusable containers, calling the chemical a "poisonous or deleterious substance."

While the FDA banned BPA in children's cups and baby bottles back in 2012, a universal ban is not yet in place; Markey has reportedly attempted before to get a BPA ban in action in 2011, but it reportedly never made it out of committee.

Exposure to BPA is apparently fairly widespread, and past studies have linked exposure to the chemical to behavioral problems in children, and multiple health problems.

The ban would treat bisphenol A as an adulterant of a food or beverage, only allowing waivers if it is not technologically feasible to replace BPA with other containers, or use a BPA-free container. A full PDF of the legislation can be seen at Consumerist.

Congress Considering Banning BPA From Food Packaging - Recipes

Safer States analyzed anticipated state-level policies on toxic chemical regulation, finding that at least 27 states will consider policies in 2021. Safer States anticipates that at least 180 bills will be under consideration in 2021 and efforts to combat toxic PFAS chemicals will continue to be the most prevalent issue.

The 180 estimated policies is a conservative estimate based on bills that have been identified, as well as considerations of multiple versions of bills, and other policies that are in development but not yet clear.

The states include Alaska, Arizona, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Oklahoma, Oregon, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Texas, Vermont, Virginia, Washington.

Safer State’s analysis of legislation that will be introduced across the country has found that regulation of PFAS chemicals is the focus of the majority of policies being proposed. PFAS (per- and polyfluorinated alkyl substances) are a class of more than 5000 chemicals used in everything from cookware, food packaging, and carpets to outdoor apparel and firefighting foams. PFAS are also widely used in industrial processes and then discharged into waterways. The director of the U.S. Center for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) National Center for Environmental Health called PFAS “one of the most seminal public health challenges of the coming decades.”

PFAS have been linked to serious health problems such as cancer, hormone disruption, immune suppression, and reproductive problems. Scientists are concerned about how exposure to PFAS and other toxic chemicals can worsen the impacts of Covid-19 . PFAS are sometimes called “ forever chemicals ” since they do not easily break down in the environment and some forms will be with us forever. PFAS travel far distances, with a recent study finding 60 tons of PFAS in the Arctic Ocean . Nearly every American has PFAS in their body : they are found in blood, breast milk , and even umbilical cord blood of newborn babies. For more information on PFAS, visit Safer States’ PFAS Action Guide: www.pfasaction.org .

Below is an overview of the policies that have been or that we anticipate being introduced in legislatures around the country to address the serious threat of PFAS and other toxic chemicals. Some of the policies listed below are part of a single bill:

Restricting PFAS in products:

At least 11 states will consider policies to eliminate PFAS from food packaging including AK, AZ, CT, IA, MD, MI, MN, OR, RI, VA, VT (several states are aiming to eliminate additional chemicals of concern). PFAS are used in nonstick coatings on food packaging materials like microwave popcorn bags and fast-food wrappers. The chemicals don’t always stay in the food packaging, but instead can move into the food where we may be exposed when we eat. Studies also show that when PFAS-coated food packaging is composted or landfilled, the chemicals can migrate into the environment.

At least 7 states will introduce legislation to eliminate PFAS from firefighting foam, including bans, restrictions, and mandatory take-back programs: AK, CT, MA, ME, MD, MI, VT. Firefighting foam is a major source of PFAS drinking water contamination. In the last three years, multiple states have passed bans on PFAS in firefighting foams while both the military and the FAA have been directed by Congress to stop using PFAS-based firefighting foams.

At least 6 states will be considering bills to eliminate PFAS from textiles such as carpets, rugs, upholstery, and aftermarket textile treatments: AK, MA, MD, ME, NY, VT. Both California and Washington state have identified these products as significant sources of human and ecological exposures to PFAS and are working on identifying safer alternatives through regulatory processes. Other states are now attempting to address these same issues through legislation.

Multiple states will be considering restrictions and/or disclosure requirements for PFAS in other consumer products such as ski wax (VT), children’s products (CA), and cookware (MA, CA).

Restrict PFAS in Broader scale PFAS efforts

Connecticut and Maine are moving to phase out all uses of PFAS in consumer products, beginning with those where there are readily available substitutes.

Washington is aiming to secure $3.5 million to implement Chemical Action Plans on PFAS and other chemicals of concern.

Minnesota will be considering creating a new state-level PFAS task force to address existing and potential future contamination. Several states, including CT, ME, MI, PA, and WI have already launched interagency PFAS task forces to create and implement state-specific action plans to address widespread pollution issues.

PFAS Management and Accountability

At least 5 states will consider policies for medical monitoring, strict liability and/or extending the statute of limitations for PFAS lawsuits: IN, MD, ME, MI, VT. Millions of Americans are dealing with PFAS contaminated drinking and states are spending millions of dollars to clean up pollution. Responding to this situation, States are taking action to hold polluters accountable. Indiana has proposed offering veterans to have their blood tested for PFAS, while Maine is working to extend the statute of limitations so farmers and others who have had their land pollution by PFAS are able to seek legal remedy even though the contamination took place years earlier.

At least 4 states will consider restricting PFAS disposal and/or ban incineration: CT, IL, MD, OK. Since PFAS chemicals don’t break down in the environment, PFAS disposal poses huge challenges. Several states are moving to regulate how PFAS waste is disposed of, and some are considering banning its incineration.

At least 2 states will be considering legislation to officially designate PFAS chemicals as hazardous under state law: ME, MN. Such action can lead to broader and more effective cleanup and pollution prevention efforts.

New Hampshire legislation would require a polluter to pay for PFAS cleanup . The bill would require Saint Gobain Performance Plastics to pay for the cleanup of water in certain wells and water systems that it contaminated in the state.

PFAS and Water

At least 11 states will consider legislation to address PFAS in drinking water: AZ, CT, IN, ME, MI, NJ, NY, NH, RI, SC, VT. PFAS contamination has been found in drinking water or groundwater in almost 1,400 sites in 49 states, and this is likely just the tip of the iceberg of the PFAS problem when it comes to water.

At least 4 states will consider legislation to address PFAS in surface water and/or groundwater : CO, NC, RI, VT. Surface water and groundwater are connected, and both are important sources of current and future drinking water for US residents. For these reasons, it is important that states are beginning to work to address PFAS pollution in all of their waters.

At least 5 state's legislation will identify and or restrict PFAS in sludge/biosolids including ME, MD, MI, MN and VT . Because PFAS doesn’t break down and pollution sources are highly diffuse, the chemicals end up in the sludge/biosolids that are left over after water treatment. When this sludge is spread on farmland, it can contaminate the soil. This practice is highly problematic and some states are beginning to take action to address it.

At least 7 state’s legislation will require testing and/or disclosure of PFAS in water: CA, CO, IA, ME, NJ, RI, VA. The true scope of PFAS contamination is unknown since testing is still somewhat limited. Many states are working to increase testing in order to better document the extent of their pollution problems.

Toxic Flame Retardants, Cosmetics, and More

At least 7 states will consider restricting toxic flame retardants in furniture, children’s products, and/or electronics : AK, DE, GA, IA, NJ, NY, VA. Flame retardants are a class of chemicals added to furniture, electronics, and building materials intended to help prevent fires. Despite the claims of the chemical industry, many of them are unnecessary, don’t work well, and can be harmful. Flame retardants have been shown to cause neurological damage, hormone disruption, and cancer. One of the biggest dangers of some flame retardants is that they bioaccumulate in humans, causing long-term chronic health problems as bodies contain higher and higher levels of these toxic chemicals.

At least 5 states will be considering restrictions or requiring disclosure on chemicals of concern in cosmetics : MA, MD, MI, NJ, NY. There are many chemicals of concern in cosmetics including formaldehyde, parabens, PFAS, phthalates, mercury among others. There is growing concern about impacts especially on women of color .

Multiple states are considering restrictions on chemicals of concern such as lead, mercury, BPA, cadmium, formaldehyde, and/or more in specific product types: pet products (NY), paint (OR), receipt paper (NJ, MA), children’s products (NJ, NY). And Oregon will be considering expansion of its Kid Safe Product Act, giving the agency more authority to regulate chemicals of concern.

Congressional Action

Consumer advocates are backing moves in Congress to ban BPA. Such a ban could be considered when the Senate takes up broad food safety legislation in the coming weeks.

"I no longer eat food out of cans. I no longer buy cans, I look for jars," said Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif. Feinstein is sponsoring a bill banning BPA from food packaging but also allows for a one-year delay in the ban as manufacturers shift to other packaging materials.


"It's amazing to me that everybody doesn't jump quick to do this," said Feinstein, who pointed out that Maryland, Connecticut, Wisconsin, Minnesota, and Washington have all restricted the sale of baby and infant products containing BPA.

Industry groups oppose any such restrictions or bans. In a statement, the Grocery Manufacturers of America noted "BPA has been used for over 30 years" in food and beverage packaging, including cans.

"Scientists and regulatory agencies who have reviewed BPA have concluded that BPA is safe for use in these products," the group stated.

In another statement, the North American Metal Packaging Alliance pointed out that governments in Japan, Australia, and Europe have concluded BPA is safe for humans at low doses.

Feinstein pointed out that U.S. law doesn't require companies to prove chemicals like BPA are safe before using them in a way that exposes the food supply. Feinstein said she'd back legislation forcing companies to prove the safety of the chemicals they use before they reach grocery stores.


"No Silver Lining: An Investigation into Bisphenol A in Canned Foods," National Workgroup for Safe Markets, May 18, 2010.

Chemical industry defends BPA after Chicago’s ban

"This new Chicago law is contrary to the global consensus on the safety of BPA and ignores the expert evaluations of scientists and government bodies from around the world​,” said a statement from the American Chemistry Council (ACC). “These particular restrictions on the sale of baby bottles and sippy cups, intended for use by children under the age of three and which contain bisphenol A (BPA), are unwarranted​.”

Earlier this week, Chicago voted to ban the sale of baby bottles and sipper cups that contain bisphenol A for use by children under the age of three. The proposed legislation specifically seeks to prohibit the use of BPA from “any empty bottle or cup specifically designed to be filled with food or liquid to be used primarily by a child under the age of 3​.”

Milk bottles

The law, if finally approved, will would become effective from January 31, 2010. It also requires the city’s retailers to confirm to customers that the children’s milk bottles they sell are BPA free.

ACC insisted that although it shared Chicago’s goal of protecting children’s health, products containing BPA are safe. "ACC and its member companies that manufacture and use BPA are committed to providing the compounds and plastics that make possible a range of products that protect public health and safety,”​ it said in a statement. “We have and will continue to develop scientific data to inform credible, transparent scientific assessments of BPA so that the public can have the confidence it deserves in the safety of these products.​”

BPA: How One Small Compound Is Fuelling One Long Scientific Discussion

Imagine: you’re at your local supermarket combing through the food storage containers aisle. You’re here on a mission to find the perfect tupperware. All those leftovers at home will go to waste if you don’t invest in some tupperware to properly store them. In other words, your potential breakfast and lunch are at stake, and that’s a price you’re not willing to pay. Now, the challenge lies in deciding which set of containers to buy. This one is the cheapest, but it’s too flimsy. There’s a matching set, but it’s not visually pleasing. The glass ones look nice, but they’re a bit too bulky and heavy. While contemplating your options, you can’t help but notice the fine print on one of the labels.

Why does such a label exist? Does the presence of a label stating that a container is “BPA-free” mean BPA is bad for the body? Should we throw out everything that does not have the label?

Before going on a rampage to purge our homes of BPA, it is important to get familiarized with the intense discussion surrounding this little compound and how it is challenging traditional methods of toxicity testing.

Figure 1. Molecular structures of BPA, DES, and estradiol. Highlighted regions bind to the estrogen receptor.

To begin, BPA stands for bisphenol A. This chemical compound was first synthesized in 1891, but it was not until the 1930s that BPA was discovered to have estrogen-like properties. BPA’s estrogenicity comes from its pair of hydrogen “tips” that are located at each end of the molecule. This molecular arrangement is similar to that of estradiol, a common form of estrogen, whose hydrogen “tips” are the main sites of biological activity. Because of this discovery, BPA became a candidate for an estrogen drug to treat issues related to menstruation and pregnancy, before that position was soon taken by a stronger synthetic estrogen called diethylstilbestrol (DES).

BPA would remain in the shadows until the 1950s when chemists discovered industrial uses for the compound that would eventually lead to its commercialization . It was found that BPA can be used to create two substances that are widely used today: epoxy resins and polycarbonates. Epoxy resin is a strong protective coating that is commonly used to coat floorings, seal teeth, and line the interior of food cans and water pipelines. On the other hand, polycarbonate is a strong, clear plastic that has many uses, one of which is in the production of food and beverage storage containers. The versatility of BPA led the compound to become widespread, so much so that BPA could be found practically everywhere: reusable water bottles, food packaging, CDs, medical equipment, eyeglass lenses, and even some grocery receipts. The debut of BPA into the market brought convenience to society, and life in plastic seemed pretty fantastic.

The ubiquity of BPA meant that humans were often exposed to the compound, and this raised concerns about whether or not BPA posed any threat to human health. Due to early research showing that BPA had no notable effects on health, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) declared that BPA was safe to use at low levels, and a tolerable daily intake of 50 μg/kg per day was established. Since then, however, a slew of research studies conducted by independent academic researchers began to find links between BPA and multiple health issues including infertility, cancer, heart disease, diabetes, and obesity at doses much lower than the FDA standard. These links were enough to categorize BPA as an endocrine disrupting chemical (EDC), which is quite unsettling considering how much of the human body operates on hormonal or endocrine activity. Nonetheless, this outcome is not surprising in light of BPA’s estrogen-like characteristics.

Despite all the incoming research advocating against BPA, the only change made in the FDA’s safety standards was a BPA ban in milk bottles, sippy cups, and baby formula in 2012, but this change was more of a formality than an active decision to protect public health. For several years, manufacturers producing baby products and toys voluntarily removed BPA from their products due to consumer concerns towards BPA. In 2011, the American Chemistry Council (ACC) petitioned the FDA to formally announce a partial ban in order to avoid confusion about whether these baby products sold in the U.S. contained BPA. The FDA complied, but stated that the ban did not correlate to a change in the FDA’s stance on BPA safety. For a federal agency that was established for the purpose of protecting public health by assessing the safety of various products, the late decision and adamant stance in the midst of many studies linking BPA to negative health effects was perplexing to say the least.

Even more perplexing is the discrepancy between the results of BPA research conducted by academic researchers and government scientists. Academic researchers claimed that BPA is a health hazard while the government scientists argued that there was no significant evidence suggesting a health threat. The continuous debate over the effects of BPA eventually led to a collaborative effort in 2012 called Consortium Linking Academic and Regulatory Insights on BPA Toxicity, or CLARITY-BPA for short. This collaboration between independent academic researchers and government agencies like the FDA, the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS), and the National Toxicology Program (NTP) aimed to reconcile the discrepancy in results by using the same basic experimental framework to study the various effects of BPA. In 2018, the results of CLARITY-BPA were released to the public and ultimately concluded that BPA has low potential to cause health effects, even with continuous exposure.

The study determined that no significant evidence indicated that BPA had a notable health effect, except in cases where higher doses were administered to the subjects. Academic researchers disputed this point, claiming that significant effects were indeed observed at lower doses but were dismissed as biologically irrelevant by those leading the study. Dr. Gail Prins from the department of pathology at the University of Illinois at Chicago shared that the scientists behind the government research studies “are toxicologists, they are not endocrinologists, and they don’t understand that effects at a low dose but no effects at high dose are very biologically plausible.” Prins’ statement challenges the research’s presumption that BPA operates under a monotonic dose-response relationship, where the effect of a substance increases with the dose administered. Instead, hormones and EDCs like BPA have been seen to operate under a non-monotonic dose-response (NMDR) relationship, where the effects are strongest in doses within a certain range. An NMDR relationship would explain why effects were observed at low doses of BPA but not at higher doses. It is for this reason that EDCs like BPA do not conform to traditional notions of toxicity and are causing toxicologists to revisit the old toxicological proverb, “the dose makes the poison.”

Figure 2. Graphs depicting non-monotonic dose response typically show a “U” or inverted “U” shape, with the highest values signifying optimal effects within certain ranges. Graphs of monotonic dose response display an upward trend, which indicates that higher doses increase the substance’s effects.

Apart from this point, the replicability of the study also came under criticism and called the reliability of earlier experiments into question. In order for research results to be worthy of scientific credibility, others must be able to replicate the study or conduct the same experiment and achieve similar results. However, replicability was not seen in the CLARITY-BPA study and prior studies by government agencies. Ethinyl estradiol, an active estrogenic ingredient in oral contraceptives, was used as a positive control to compare with and evaluate BPA’s estrogenicity in the study, but the data collected on the effects of ethinyl estradiol were not consistent with those found in previous experiments conducted by the FDA and NTP. This data inconsistency can be attributed to the different methods used to administer ethinyl estradiol. The earlier experiments introduced ethinyl estradiol to the animal subjects through food, whereas the substance was forcefully fed to the animal subjects with a gavage in the CLARITY-BPA study. Researchers speculate that the stress induced from forced feeding may have had a part in skewing the data. Additionally, the previous experiments kept the animal subjects in polycarbonate cages that have been shown to leach BPA. The background BPA exposure was either overlooked or not included in the evaluation, but when considering BPA’s estrogenicity, it likely played a role in influencing the resulting data for ethinyl estradiol. It is also important to note that although these earlier experiments were considered to be reliable, they were rarely conducted more than once, which indicates a lack of replicated studies to draw upon for comparison and credence. To put it simply, CLARITY-BPA has shed light on the flaws in current toxicology testing as well as the difficulty in monitoring background interferences.

Even though the study has ended, the results of CLARITY-BPA are still being heavily debated, but there are ways to reduce BPA exposure if one chooses to do so. BPA commonly enters the body through consumption of foods from BPA-containing products. Small amounts of BPA would seep into food and beverages from lined cans, plastic containers, and packaging, even more so when these BPA-containing products are placed under high heat. Thus, one way to reduce exposure is to avoid microwaving plastic food storage containers and packaging. Another way is to eat less canned foods, since the lining of cans contains BPA that can leach into the contents. Lastly, avoid plastics altogether (especially those with recycling codes 3 and 7 since they tend to contain BPA), and opt for glass, porcelain, and stainless steel options instead.

While looking for BPA-free alternatives, it makes sense to look for a “BPA-free” label, but such a label can be misleading. In order for these products to be free of BPA, there must be a replacement, and it is often the case that manufacturers simply substitute BPA with structurally and functionally similar compounds like BPS, BPF, BPAF and BPZ . The only difference between these compounds is a small chemical swap, similar to switching a blue lego block for a red one. As a result, these substitutes behave similarly and sometimes elicit a greater effect than BPA. Although many manufacturers have embraced the “BPA-free” label in their products, there are caveats that are unfortunately not always obvious.

While the CLARITY-BPA study is not perfect and did not resolve all the concerns surrounding BPA, many see it as a step towards improving current methods of assessing chemical safety. Despite this, the research behind BPA also highlights the difficulty in gauging how much of the results obtained in a strictly controlled laboratory setting are transferable to the actual human body, where there is a dynamic interplay with not only the body’s enzymes and hormones but also the various external chemicals that the body encounters in day-to-day life. CLARITY-BPA may have concluded, but the scientific investigation of BPA and its overall impact is far from over.

9 Groups Petition FDA to Get Perchlorate and Perfluorocarboxylates Out of Your Pizza Boxes

Two types of chemicals, perchlorate and perfluorocarboxylates, common in certain food packaging products like pizza boxes and sealing gaskets, are at the center of a petition to the Food and Drug Administration submitted by nine consumer and environmental advocacy groups.

The groups: the Natural Resources Defense Council, Breast Cancer Fund, Center for Environmental Health, Center for Food Safety, Center for Science in the Public Interest, Children’s Environmental Health Network, Clean Water Action, Environmental Working Group, and Improving Kids’ Environment, are asking the FDA to ban perchlorate and perfluorocarboxylates from food packaging because of serious risks to human health.

According to Food Safety News, “These chemicals have the potential to harm fetal development, male reproductive systems, pre- and post-natal brain development and cause cancer, stated the petition signatories.”

The NRDC claims it received flawed FDA data on perchlorate through a Freedom of Information Act request. “The petitioners cited an FDA study from 2008 which found that 59 percent of more than 1,000 food samples had detectable levels of perchlorate and that children younger than six had the greatest average exposure,” reports Food Safety News.

And, explains Food Safety News, the group noted that the EPA’s Science Advisory board �lieves that infants are likely to be disproportionately impacted by perchlorate because their brains are still developing.”

The groups identified 10 studies published between 2009 and 2014 that also supported the FDA’s own research that found “significant gaps” in understanding the potential risks to human health from exposure to these chemicals.

The Scary New Evidence on BPA-Free Plastics

Each night at dinnertime, a familiar ritual played out in Michael Green’s home: He’d slide a stainless steel sippy cup across the table to his two-year-old daughter, Juliette, and she’d howl for the pink plastic one. Often, Green gave in. But he had a nagging feeling. As an environmental-health advocate, he had fought to rid sippy cups and baby bottles of the common plastic additive bisphenol A (BPA), which mimics the hormone estrogen and has been linked to a long list of serious health problems. Juliette’s sippy cup was made from a new generation of BPA-free plastics, but Green, who runs the Oakland, California-based Center for Environmental Health, had come across research suggesting some of these contained synthetic estrogens, too.

He pondered these findings as the center prepared for its anniversary celebration in October 2011. That evening, Green, a slight man with scruffy blond hair and pale-blue eyes, took the stage and set Juliette’s sippy cups on the podium. He recounted their nightly standoffs. “When she wins&hellipevery time I worry about what are the health impacts of the chemicals leaching out of that sippy cup,” he said, before listing some of the problems linked to those chemicals&mdashcancer, diabetes, obesity. To help solve the riddle, he said, his organization planned to test BPA-free sippy cups for estrogenlike chemicals.

The center shipped Juliette’s plastic cup, along with 17 others purchased from Target, Walmart, and Babies R Us, to CertiChem, a lab in Austin, Texas. More than a quarter&mdashincluding Juliette’s&mdashcame back positive for estrogenic activity. These results mirrored the lab’s findings in its broader National Institutes of Health-funded research on BPA-free plastics. CertiChem and its founder, George Bittner, who is also a professor of neurobiology at the University of Texas-Austin, had recently coauthored a paper in the NIH journal Environmental Health Perspectives. It reported that “almost all” commercially available plastics that were tested leached synthetic estrogens&mdasheven when they weren’t exposed to conditions known to unlock potentially harmful chemicals, such as the heat of a microwave, the steam of a dishwasher, or the sun’s ultraviolet rays. According to Bittner’s research, some BPA-free products actually released synthetic estrogens that were more potent than BPA.

Estrogen plays a key role in everything from bone growth to ovulation to heart function. Too much or too little, particularly in utero or during early childhood, can alter brain and organ development, leading to disease later in life. Elevated estrogen levels generally increase a woman’s risk of breast cancer.

Estrogenic chemicals found in many common products have been linked to a litany of problems in humans and animals. According to one study, the pesticide atrazine can turn male frogs female. DES, which was once prescribed to prevent miscarriages, caused obesity, rare vaginal tumors, infertility, and testicular growths among those exposed in utero. Scientists have tied BPA to ailments including asthma, cancer, infertility, low sperm count, genital deformity, heart disease, liver problems, and ADHD. “Pick a disease, literally pick a disease,” says Frederick vom Saal, a biology professor at the University of Missouri-Columbia who studies BPA.

BPA exploded into the headlines in 2008, when stories about “toxic baby bottles” and “poison” packaging became ubiquitous. Good Morning America issued a “consumer alert.” The New York Times urged Congress to ban BPA in baby products. Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) warned in the Huffington Post that “millions of infants are exposed to dangerous chemicals hiding in plain view.” Concerned parents purged their pantries of plastic containers, and retailers such as Walmart and Babies R Us started pulling bottles and sippy cups from shelves. Bills banning BPA in infant care items began to crop up in states around the country.

Today many plastic products, from sippy cups and blenders to Tupperware containers, are marketed as BPA-free. But Bittner’s findings&mdashsome of which have been confirmed by other scientists&mdashsuggest that many of these alternatives share the qualities that make BPA so potentially harmful.

Those startling results set off a bitter fight with the $375-billion-a-year plastics industry. The American Chemistry Council, which lobbies for plastics makers and has sought to refute the science linking BPA to health problems, has teamed up with Tennessee-based Eastman Chemical&mdashthe maker of Tritan, a widely used plastic marketed as being free of estrogenic activity&mdashin a campaign to discredit Bittner and his research. The company has gone so far as to tell corporate customers that the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) rejected Bittner’s testing methods. (It hasn’t.) Eastman also sued CertiChem and its sister company, PlastiPure, to prevent them from publicizing their findings that Tritan is estrogenic, convincing a jury that its product displayed no estrogenic activity. And it launched a PR blitz touting Tritan’s safety, targeting the group most vulnerable to synthetic estrogens: families with young children. “It can be difficult for consumers to tell what is really safe,” the vice president of Eastman’s specialty plastics division, Lucian Boldea, said in one web video, before an image of a pregnant woman flickered across the screen. With Tritan, he added, “consumers can feel confident that the material used in their products is free of estrogenic activity.”

Eastman’s offensive is just the latest in a wide-ranging industry campaign to cast doubt on the potential dangers of plastics in food containers, packaging, and toys&mdasha campaign that closely resembles the methods Big Tobacco used to stifle scientific evidence about the dangers of smoking. Indeed, in many cases, the plastics and chemical industries have relied on the same scientists and consultants who defended Big Tobacco. These efforts, detailed in internal industry documents revealed during Bittner’s legal battle with Eastman, have sown public confusion and stymied US regulation, even as BPA bans have sprung up elsewhere in the world. They have also squelched debate about the safety of plastics more generally. All the while, evidence is mounting that the products so prevalent in our daily lives may be leaching toxic chemicals into our bodies, with consequences affecting not just us, but many generations to come.

The fight over the safety of plastics traces back to 1987, when Theo Colborn, a 60-year-old grandmother with a recent Ph.D. in zoology, was hired to investigate mysterious health problems in wildlife around the Great Lakes. Working for the Washington, DC-based Conservation Foundation (now part of the World Wildlife Fund), she began collecting research papers. Before long, her tiny office was stacked floor to ceiling with cardboard boxes of studies detailing a bewildering array of maladies&mdashcancer, shrunken sexual organs, plummeting fertility, immune suppression, birds born with crossed beaks and missing eyes. Some species also suffered from a bizarre syndrome that caused seemingly healthy chicks to waste away and die.

While the afflictions and species varied widely, Colborn eventually realized they had two factors in common: The young were hardest hit, and, in one way or another, all of the animals’ symptoms were linked to the endocrine system, the network of glands that controls growth, metabolism, and brain function, with hormones as its chemical messengers. The system also plays a key role in fetal development. Colborn suspected that synthetic hormones in pesticides, plastics, and other products acted as “hand-me-down poisons,” with parents’ exposure causing affliction in their offspring. Initially, her colleagues were skeptical. But Colborn collected data and tissue samples from far-flung wildlife populations and unearthed previously overlooked studies that supported her theory. By 1996, when Colborn copublished her landmark book Our Stolen Future, she had won over many skeptics. Based partly on her research, Congress passed a law that year requiring the EPA to screen some 80,000 chemicals&mdashmost of which had never undergone any type of safety testing&mdashfor endocrine-disrupting effects and report back by 2000.

Around this time, the University of Missouri’s vom Saal, a garrulous biologist who previously worked as a bush pilot in Kenya, began studying the effects of synthetic estrogens on fetal mouse development. The first substance he tested was BPA, a chemical used in clear, hard plastics, particularly the variety known as polycarbonate, to make them more flexible and durable. (It’s also found in everyday items, from dental sealants and hospital blood bags to cash register receipts and the lining of tin cans.) Naturally occurring estrogens bind with proteins in the blood, limiting the amount that reaches estrogen receptors. But vom Saal found this wasn’t true of BPA, which bypassed the body’s natural barrier system and burrowed deep into the cells of laboratory mice.

Vom Saal suspected this would make BPA “a hell of a lot more potent” in small doses. Working with colleagues Susan Nagel and Wade Welshons, a professor of veterinary biology, he began testing the effects of BPA at amounts 25 times lower than the EPA’s safety threshold. In the late 1990s, they published two studies finding that male mice whose mothers were exposed to these low doses during pregnancy had enlarged prostates and low sperm counts. Even in microscopic quantities, it seemed, BPA could cause the kinds of dire health problems Colborn had found in wildlife. Before long, other scientists began turning up ailments among animals exposed to minute doses of BPA.

These findings posed a direct threat to plastics and chemical makers, which fought back using tactics the tobacco makers had refined to an art form. By the late 1990s, when tobacco companies agreed to drop deceptive marketing practices under a settlement agreement with 46 states, many of the scientists and consultants on the industry’s payroll transitioned seamlessly into defending BPA.

Plastics and chemical interests worked closely with the Weinberg Group, which had run Big Tobacco’s White Coat Project&mdashan effort to recruit scientists to create doubt about the health effects of secondhand smoke. Soon Weinberg, which bills itself as a “product defense” firm, was churning out white papers and lobbying regulators. It also underwrote a trade group with its own scientific journal, Regulatory Toxicology and Pharmacology, which published studies finding BPA was safe.

The industry also worked hand in glove with the Harvard Center for Risk Analysis, a think tank affiliated with the university’s school of public health that has a history of accepting donations from corporations and then publishing research favorable to their products. In the early 1990s, its founder, John D. Graham&mdashwho was later tapped as George W. Bush’s regulatory czar&mdashlobbied to quash an EPA finding that secondhand smoke caused lung cancer, while soliciting large contributions from Philip Morris.

In 2001, as studies on BPA stacked up, the American Chemistry Council enlisted the center to convene a panel of scientists to investigate low-dose BPA. The center paid panelists $12,000 to attend three meetings, according to Fast Company. Their final report, released in 2004, drew on just a few industry-favored studies and concluded that the evidence that low-dose BPA exposure harmed human health was “very weak.” By this point, roughly 100 studies on low-dose BPA were in circulation. Not a single industry-funded study found it harmful, but 90 percent of those by government-funded scientists discovered dramatic effects, ranging from an increased breast cancer risk to hyperactivity. Four of the 12 panelists later insisted the center scrub their names from the report because of questions about its accuracy.

Chemical interests, meanwhile, forged deep inroads with the Bush administration, allowing them to covertly steer the regulatory process. For decades, the Food and Drug Administration has assured lawmakers and the public that BPA is safe in low doses. But a 2008 investigation by the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel revealed that the agency had relied on industry lobbyists to track and evaluate BPA research, and had based its safety assessment largely on two industry-funded studies&mdashone of which had never been published or peer reviewed.

The panel the EPA appointed to develop guidelines for its congressionally mandated endocrine disruptor screening was also stocked with industry-backed scientists. It included Chris Borgert, a toxicology consultant who had worked closely with Philip Morris to discredit EPA research on secondhand smoke. He later served as the president of the International Society of Regulatory Toxicology and Pharmacology, the Weinberg Group-sponsored outfit, which met in the offices of a plastics lobbyist.

Members of the EPA panel say Borgert seemed determined to sandbag the process. “He was always delaying, always trying to confuse the issue,” recalls one participant. And the screening approach the EPA settled on came straight from the industry’s playbook. Among other things, the chemicals would be tested on a type of rat known as the Charles River Sprague Dawley&mdashwhich, oddly, doesn’t respond to synthetic hormones like BPA.

How best to test for estrogenic activity would become a key front in the fight over plastic safety. The American Chemistry Council joined forces with an unlikely ally, PETA, to fight large-scale chemical-safety testing on animals. At the same time, Borgert and other industry-funded scientists made the case that the other common method for testing&mdashusing cells that respond in the presence of estrogen&mdashdid not necessarily tell us how a substance would affect animals or humans. In fact, a massive, ongoing NIH-run study has found that cell-based tests track closely with animal studies, which have accurately predicted the effects of synthetic estrogens, particularly DES and BPA, on humans.

Stanton Glantz, who directs the Center for Tobacco Control Research and Education at the University of California-San Francisco, argues the chemical industry’s real aim in challenging specific testing methods is to undermine safety testing altogether. “Like the tobacco companies, they want to set up a standard of proof that is unreachable,” he says. “If they set the standard of proof, they’ve won the fight.”

During the height of the battle over BPA, vom Saal periodically traveled to Texas and huddled around the dining table with his old friend George Bittner, whose home overlooks a walnut grove on the outskirts of Austin. Bittner, who holds a Ph.D. in neuroscience from Stanford, is quirky and irascible. But he has a brilliant mind for science and an interest in applying it to real-world problems&mdashin his lab at UT-Austin, he had developed a nerve-regeneration technique that had helped crippled rats walk within days. And he had taken a keen interest in vom Saal’s research on endocrine disruption. “It struck me as the most important public health issue of our time,” Bittner told me when we met at his lab. “These chemicals have been correlated with so many adverse effects in animal studies, and they’re so pervasive. The potential implications for human health boggle the mind.”

In the late 1990s, Bittner&mdasha squat, ruddy man with thinning red hair and Napoleon Dynamite glasses who had made a tidy sum investing in real estate and commodities&mdashbegan mulling the idea of launching a private company that worked with manufacturers and public health organizations to test products for endocrine disruptors. He believed this approach could help raise awareness and break the regulatory logjam&mdashwhile also reaping a profit.

In 2002, armed with a $91,000 grant from the National Institutes of Health, Bittner launched a pair of companies: CertiChem, to test plastics and other products for synthetic estrogens, and PlastiPure, to find or develop nonestrogenic alternatives. Bittner then enlisted Welshons to design a special test using a line of breast cancer cells, which multiply rapidly in the presence of estrogen. It features a robotic arm, which is far more precise than a human hand in handling microscopic material.

But before long Bittner began butting heads with Welshons and vom Saal. Bittner wanted the researchers to sign over the rights to the test Welshons had developed, while they insisted it belonged to the University of Missouri. Eventually, they had a bitter falling out. Welshons and vom Saal filed a complaint with the NIH, alleging that Bittner had misrepresented data from Welshons’ lab in a brochure. (Bittner maintains that he merely excluded data from contaminated samples the institute found no evidence of wrongdoing.) Bittner, meanwhile, enlisted V. Craig Jordan, a pharmacology professor at Georgetown University with an expertise in hormones&mdashhe discovered a now-common hormone therapy that blocks the spread of breast cancer&mdashto refine the testing protocol. By 2005, Bittner had opened a commercial lab in a leafy office park in Austin. He managed to attract some big-name clients, including Whole Foods, which hired CertiChem to advise it on endocrine-disrupting chemicals and test some of its products.

At this point, BPA was among the most studied chemicals on the planet. In November 2006, vom Saal and a top official at the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences convened a group of 38 leading researchers from various disciplines to evaluate the 700-plus existing studies on the subject. The group later issued a “consensus statement” that laid out some chilling conclusions: More than 95 percent of people in developed countries were exposed to levels of BPA that are “within the range” associated with health problems in animals, from cancer and insulin-resistant diabetes to early puberty. The scientists also found that there was “great cause for concern with regard to the potential for similar adverse effects in humans,” especially given the steep uptick in these same disorders.

At the same time, a new body of research was finding that BPA altered animals’ genes in ways that caused disease. For instance, it could switch off a gene that suppresses tumor growth, allowing cancer to spread. These genetic changes were passed down across generations. “A poison kills you,” vom Saal explains. “A chemical like BPA reprograms your cells and ends up causing a disease in your grandchild that kills him.”

Scientists were also uncovering links between endocrine-disrupting chemicals known as phthalates and health problems, including genital abnormalities and infertility in humans. These chemical additives were commonly found in soft, pliable plastics, such as those used in pacifiers and baby bottle nipples. In 2008, Congress passed a law banning six types of phthalates in children’s products. As concerns about BPA hit the mainstream, Congress also launched an investigation into the industry’s efforts to manipulate science and regulation, and a number of states proposed BPA bans.

In 2009, the BPA Joint Trade Association&mdashwhich included the American Chemistry Council, Coca-Cola, and Del Monte, among others&mdashgathered at the Cosmos Club, a members-only retreat in Washington, DC’s Dupont Circle. According to meeting minutes leaked to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, the group explored messaging strategies, “including using fear tactics (e.g., ‘Do you want to have access to baby food anymore?’).” The “‘holy grail’ spokesperson,” attendees agreed, was a “pregnant young mother who would be willing to speak around the country about the benefits of BPA.”

Even as the industry crafted defensive talking points, some companies began offering BPA-free alternatives. But they often didn’t bother testing them for other potentially toxic compounds or synthetic hormones. Nor did they have to: Under US law, chemicals are presumed safe until proven otherwise, and companies are rarely required to collect or disclose chemical-safety data. Michael Green, the Center for Environmental Health director who worried about his daughter’s sippy cup, says this results in a “toxic shell game”: Corporations that come under pressure to root out toxins often replace them with untested chemicals, which sometimes turn out to be just as hazardous. “It’s an unplanned science experiment we’re doing on our families,” Green told me when I visited him at his Bay Area home, where Juliette, now 5, was padding around in a pink princess costume.

One of the most popular BPA-free options, especially among companies catering to families and health-conscious consumers, was Tritan, a clear, sturdy, heat-resistant plastic that Eastman rolled out in 2007. (Eastman also produces the chemical that sullied the drinking water of 300,000 West Virginians in January.) A company founded by alternative medicine guru Dr. Andrew Weil launched a line of Weil Baby bottles made from Tritan, which it touted as “revolutionary” and “ultra-safe” material. Thermos began churning out Tritan sippy cups, decorated with Barbie and Batman. With more and more consumers demanding BPA-free products, Nalgene, CamelBack, Evenflo, Cuisinart, Tupperware, Rubbermaid, and many other companies also worked Tritan into their production lines.

Eastman, a $7 billion company that was spun off from Eastman Kodak in the 1990s, assured its corporate customers that it had done extensive safety testing on Tritan. But its methods were questionable. According to internal Eastman documents, in 2008 Eastman signed a two-year contract with Sciences International, another product defense firm that had played a key role in the tobacco industry’s scientific misinformation campaign. On Sciences’ advice, Eastman then commissioned a study that used computer modeling to predict whether a substance contains synthetic estrogens, based on its chemical structure. The model suggested that one of Tritan’s ingredients&mdashtriphenyl phosphate, or TPP&mdashwas more estrogenic than BPA.

Eastman, which never disclosed these findings to its customers, later commissioned another study, this one involving breast cancer cells. Again, the initial results appeared positive for estrogenic activity. In an email to colleagues, Eastman’s senior toxicologist, James Deyo, called this an “oh shit moment.”

Cell culture tests for estrogenic effects generally involve soaking plastic in alcohol or salt water, then exposing cells to various concentrations of the chemicals that seep out. After Deyo informed the lab that its findings must “be worded very well relative to the lack of” estrogenic activity, it issued a report that only counted data from the lowest concentrations&mdasheven though this violated the lab’s testing guidelines, and made the results appear negative when they weren’t. “The lab ignored its own criteria and misrepresented its findings,” says Michael Denison, a professor of toxicology at the University of California-Davis who evaluated the document.

Eastman wasn’t the only company testing Tritan. In 2009, Bittner’s PlastiPure, which was searching for nonestrogenic alternatives to recommend to clients, began vetting products made with it and found that some had even more estrogenic activity than their BPA-laden counterparts. PlastiPure’s CEO, Mike Usey, says CertiChem disclosed this to clients, but many chose Tritan anyway.

This was part of a broader pattern of indifference. According to Usey, hundreds of manufacturers&mdashincluding most of the big baby bottle makers&mdashcontacted CertiChem to inquire about testing their BPA-free products for estrogenic chemicals, but few actually followed through. “Their position was: Until consumers are demanding nonestrogenic products, there’s no reason to be an early adopter,” Usey explains. “They want to delay as long as they can, because they know any transition will cost them.” In some cases, manufacturers paid for testing, then never collected the findings. “They didn’t want to know the results because there’s liability in knowing,” Usey says. “They’re right in the sense that you don’t want to know if you’re not going to fix the problem.”

Despite its “oh shit” findings, by 2010 Eastman began to produce marketing materials claiming that Tritan was free of all synthetic estrogens. One section of its website featured the tagline “Safety is our key ingredient” along with photos of smiling children eating and drinking out of plastic containers. The site claimed “third-party research” had shown Tritan to be free of estrogenic activity, but when corporate customers tried to verify this information, Eastman grew cagey. In early 2010, Philips Avent, a top producer of baby bottles and sippy cups, inquired about having an outside lab run testing on Tritan. Eastman’s senior chemist Emmett O’Brien fired off an email to colleagues, saying, “We need to [do] everything possible to convince the customer NOT to do EA [estrogenic activity] testing.” Philips was persuaded. But, according to testimony from Eastman executives, that same year Nestlé vetted Tritan, and found it leached synthetic estrogen. (Frédérique Henry, a spokeswoman for Nestlé, acknowledges the company tested Tritan but denies the results were positive.) Nestlé has nevertheless continued using Tritan in some of its water bottles.

Bittner and Usey, meanwhile, decided to go public. “As long as the consumer demand wasn’t there, product manufacturers felt we were selling them a problem rather than a solution,” Usey explains. “We saw this as the only way forward.” Bittner’s companies, which have received more than $8 million in NIH funding, began working with Jordan, the Georgetown professor, on a paper for publication. In the fall of 2010, Usey attended the ABC Kids Expo, a children’s product extravaganza in Las Vegas, and handed out flyers with a graph showing how various products that were marketed as nonestrogenic stacked up in CertiChem’s tests. The most estrogenic among them, Weil Baby bottles, were made from Tritan. (The company referred Mother Jones to a press release on its website stating that it “remains confident that Tritan is safe.”)

Soon Eastman’s customers began inquiring about CertiChem’s findings. For the most part, Eastman convinced them to disregard Bittner’s claims. At one point, O’Brien met with Whole Foods executives. They were considering replacing their polycarbonate bulk food bins with ones made from Tritan, even though Bittner had previously informed them that the product was estrogenic. According to a memo O’Brien later wrote, when the subject came up, he responded by attacking Bittner, whom he called “shady,” and his test results, which he alleged were “very questionable.” The Whole Foods executives later pressed O’Brien about the other tests carried out on Tritan.

The chemist claimed, falsely, that they were performed by independent scientists with no funding from Eastman and hadn’t turned up any evidence that Tritan leached synthetic estrogens. Whole Foods&mdashwhich declined to comment for this story&mdashplowed ahead and installed Tritan bins in many of its 270 US stores.

Eastman refused to answer questions for this story, but it released a written statement saying that it had “paid the labs for their time and expertise and not for a particular conclusion,” and remained “confident in the testing and safety of Tritan.”

In March 2011, the Environmental Health Perspectives paper by Jordan and researchers from CertiChem and PlastiPure appeared online. They’d tested 455 store-bought food containers and storage products, including several made from Tritan. The results? Seventy-two percent leached synthetic estrogens. And every type of plastic commonly used in food packaging (polypropylene and polystyrene, for example) tested positive in some cases, which suggested there was no surefire way to avoid exposure.

Other scientists have also found evidence of estrogen-mimicking chemicals in BPA-free plastics. In 2009, two German environmental toxicologists tested PET, a plastic commonly used in water bottles, on a strain of mud snails that produce more embryos when exposed to synthetic estrogen. Snails reared in PET bottles produced twice as many as those reared in a glass culture dish.

These studies don’t identify which estrogenic chemicals are leaching from BPA-free plastics, but many of these products are known to contain phthalates or bisphenol S (BPS), a chemical cousin of BPA that plastic makers frequently use in its place. Cell-culture tests suggest that BPA and BPS have similar effects.

In other cases, little may be known about the specific health effects of the chemicals involved, but a 2012 literature review by 12 prominent scientists found there is “substantial evidence” that endocrine-disrupting chemicals generally harm human health. “We know that there’s a cost when we mess with the levels of these hormones in our bodies, regardless of how we do it,” says the study’s lead author, Laura Vandenberg, a professor of environmental health sciences at the University of Massachusetts-Amherst. “Even small changes early in life can alter brain and organ development and set us up for disease later on.”

The month after Bittner’s study appeared, the American Chemistry Council contacted Chris Borgert, the former tobacco industry scientist who stymied the EPA’s Endocrine Disruptor Screening Program. According to internal emails, the council and the Society of the Plastics Industry offered to pay him $15,000 to write a brief letter to the journal’s editor refuting CertiChem’s study, and to enlist another scientist to sign on. Their letter argued that CertiChem’s findings were “unconvincing” just because a substance behaved like estrogen in a culture dish didn’t mean it would do so in animals or humans.

At the same time, Eastman laid plans to sue CertiChem and PlastiPure for false advertising. Expecting that Bittner would lash out after being served papers, the company launched a preemptive PR blitz. “By proactively promoting Tritan safety,” an internal memo noted, “it will put PlastiPure in a position to have to prove Eastman wrong.” The company also paid a scientist named Thomas Osimitz $10,000 to author a research paper on Tritan. While Osimitz was ostensibly working independently, Deyo, the Eastman toxicologist, micromanaged the process, from designing the study to writing the introduction. Deyo’s study design virtually guaranteed estrogenic activity wouldn’t be found. For example, he opted to use the hormone-insensitive Charles River Sprague Dawley lab rat. Rather than testing Tritan itself, he instructed Osimitz to test only some Tritan ingredients&mdashTPP, the one that had raised red flags in the computer-modeling study, was not included. (The European Union has since classified the compound as a suspected endocrine disruptor.)

In June 2012, Osimitz’s paper&mdashfinding that Tritan was not estrogenic&mdashappeared in Food and Chemical Toxicology, an industry-friendly journal. Its editor, A. Wallace Hayes, was previously vice president of biochemical and biobehavioral research at R.J. Reynolds, which led the attack against science linking secondhand smoke to human health problems.

Scientific journals generally require authors to disclose any conflicts of interest. But the Food and Chemical Toxicology article made no mention of Eastman’s role in the study. According to internal Eastman emails, the company was also aiming to hire Osimitz to author a second paper, again with “no&hellipmention of Eastman.” As Deyo noted, “credibility is somewhat enhanced if it is not ‘Eastman’ authors.”

Once its own data had been published, Eastman set out to bury Bittner’s findings. In August 2012, the company sued CertiChem and PlastiPure, which it claimed were spreading false information about Tritan to generate demand for their own services. Eastman’s lawyers asked the judge to bar both firms from ever claiming Tritan was estrogenic&mdashor saying that cell-based tests could detect estrogenic activity, even though scientists routinely use them for this purpose. For decades, scientists have relied on the same breast cancer cell line Bittner’s lab uses, MCF-7, to screen for estrogenic activity. According to UMass’ Vandenberg, these cells have proven “remarkably good at telling us if compounds found in plastics and personal care products mimic estrogen” and their “failure rates are minuscule.”

On July 15, 2013, Bittner squared off against Eastman at a federal courthouse in Austin. The company’s attorneys went in hard. Specifically, they claimed running a company that tested products for estrogenic activity, as well as one that helped companies find nonestrogenic alternatives, created a conflict of interest. (Bittner counters that he’s no more conflicted than a doctor who both diagnoses and treats patients.) But they didn’t directly challenge the validity of Bittner’s findings. Instead, they leaned on the questionable industry claim that tests based on human cells aren’t sufficient to establish estrogenic activity.

Eastman’s star witness, Chris Borgert, made the case that animal studies&mdashwhich the industry had also fought to undermine&mdashwere a more telling indicator. But even they were not “in and of themselves” definitive. For the result to be relevant, the effects had to be demonstrated “in an animal, at least, and then on to humans.” There was no mention of the ethical and legal barriers to testing on humans. And the judge barred Bittner’s lawyers from mentioning Borgert’s tobacco industry ties, which Eastman argued were “prejudicial.” This left the jury ill-equipped to gauge his credibility.

Borgert’s testimony may have done less damage than other factors. Bittner’s lawyers struggled to explain the science to jurors, and Bittner grew testy on the stand. Welshons, who’d designed CertiChem’s tests, testified in a deposition&mdashjust as he’d told the NIH&mdashthat Bittner had misrepresented some data in a brochure. Bittner’s attorneys managed to block his testimony from being introduced. But, Bittner says, his attorneys balked at presenting key evidence, such as figures on CertiChem’s NIH funding, because it might have made Welshons’ testimony admissible. Bittner also maintains that his rift with vom Saal and Welshons made it difficult to recruit witnesses.

Still, several prominent scientists testified for CertiChem, including UC-Davis’ Michael Denison, who coinvented a widely used test for estrogenic activity using human ovarian cells. Denison testified that he’d tested 27 samples of Tritan for estrogenic activity using this method and registered positives across the board.

But the most remarkable data might have come from none other than Wade Welshons. In the run-up to the trial, the University of Missouri scientist, who expected to prove Bittner wrong, began testing Tritan products in his lab. To his surprise, he wound up confirming CertiChem’s findings. “It doesn’t matter what I think of them personally,” Welshons told me. “If they’re right, they’re right, and many of my objections no longer matter.”

Welshons’ findings never made it into court, however, and when the jurors returned their verdict in late July, they found against Bittner’s companies on counts of false advertising and unfair competition. They also concluded Tritan was not estrogenic. Their rationale, according to postverdict interviews, echoed Eastman’s claims that estrogenic activity could not be established solely through cell-based tests. In his final ruling, the judge also noted that the “jury was likely unimpressed with Dr. Bittner’s combative demeanor.” And he upbraided both sides for failing to explain the science in terms jurors could understand. In the end, he barred Bittner’s companies from ever talking about their Tritan findings, at least in a commercial setting. But he refused to stop the companies from asserting that their tests could detect synthetic estrogens.

The long legal battle has depleted CertiChem and PlastiPure’s coffers&mdash”We’ve laid off half of our staff,” Usey told me. “It has pretty much crushed us”&mdashand emboldened Eastman. After I began raising questions about Tritan, Rick W. Harrison, an attorney for the chemical giant, inadvertently copied me on an email about Eastman’s damage control strategy. “If this somehow gets picked up by mainstream media&mdashOprah or NY media&mdashEastman sends Lucian [Boldea, the vice president of Eastman’s specialty plastics division] or whoever on the show prepped with the verdict, order and judgment and express surprise and indignation that these issues are still being raised after three years of litigation,” he wrote. “The court/jury has spoken and spoken loudly.”

The industry, meanwhile, has revived its campaign to downplay the dangers of BPA. A month after the Eastman case concluded, the American Chemistry Council relaunched its pro-BPA website, FactsAboutBPA.org. The section on infant health suggests that BPA isn’t harmful, even to premature babies. “They’re reverting back to exactly the arguments they were making in 1998,” says vom Saal. “It’s as if the last 15 years didn’t happen.”

US regulators also have continued to ignore the mounting evidence linking BPA and similar chemicals to human disease, even as bans have cropped up around the world. Although more than 90 studies examining people with various levels of exposure suggest BPA affects humans much as it does animals, the FDA recently announced that its research “supports the safety of BPA” in food containers and packaging. And the EPA program that was supposed to screen some 80,000 chemicals for endocrine disruption hasn’t fully vetted a single substance. In 2010, the agency sought White House approval to add some endocrine-disrupting chemicals that are commonly found in plastic&mdashamong them BPA, phthalates, and a class of compounds known as PBDEs&mdashto its “chemicals of concern” list because it found they “may present an unreasonable risk to human health.” This would have required chemical makers to share safety-testing data with federal regulators. The proposal languished until last September, when the EPA quietly withdrew it, along with a proposed rule requiring manufacturers to disclose safety data on chemicals in their products.

Still, Bittner isn’t giving up the fight. When I visited CertiChem’s office in Austin recently, he was sitting barefoot at a conference table surrounded by sippy cups and heaps of lab notebooks. CertiChem and PlastiPure were planning to appeal the Eastman ruling (they’ve since done so) and were working with Denison on data for new papers, one on estrogenic activity in plastic resins, which are used to make plastic products and contain fewer additives that can skew results. Bittner called up a series of graphs on the overhead projector, showing the results for several new BPA-free plastics that he had tested for estrogenic activity. He raked his laser pointer over a graph displaying the results for Tritan. The line curved up steeply. “Eastman won the battle,” he said. “But that doesn’t mean it will win the war.”

Update (3/3/14): After this story went to press, the US Food and Drug Administration published a paper finding that BPA was safe in low doses. However, due to laboratory contamination, all of the animals&mdashincluding the control group&mdashwere exposed to this chemical. Academic scientists say this raises serious questions about the study’s credibility. Stay tuned for more in-depth reporting on the FDA’s most recent study.

Replacing BPA in cans gives foodmakers fits

Major U.S. foodmakers are quietly investigating how to rid their containers of bisphenol A, a chemical under scrutiny by federal regulators concerned about links to a range of health problems, including reproductive disorders and cancer.

But they are discovering how complicated it is to remove the chemical, which is in the epoxy linings of nearly every metal can on supermarket shelves and leaches into foods such as soup, liquid baby formula and soda. It is a goal that is taking years to reach, costing millions and proving surprisingly elusive.

Randy Hartnell, whose company, Vital Choice, sells products aimed at health-conscious consumers, switched last year to can linings made without BPA. It was a costly move that he figured would resonate in the niche market that buys his canned wild salmon and low-mercury tuna.

But a recent Consumers Union test detected small amounts of BPA in Vital Choice tuna, raising questions about whether it is possible to clean the food supply of the ubiquitous chemical. The consumer group also found trace amounts of BPA in baked beans made by Eden Foods, the only other U.S. company that says it has switched to BPA-free cans.

“What we’re hearing is, the stuff is just omnipresent,” said Hartnell, whose Washington state company has spent as much as $10,000 on lab tests trying to pinpoint the source of BPA in its canned tuna. “Is it in the cutting board? The gloves that people wear who are working on the fish? Is it in the tuna itself? We don’t know. We’re trying to figure it out.”

The food industry’s efforts began even before the FDA announced last month that it had reversed its position and is concerned about the safety of BPA, which is used in thousands of consumer goods, including compact discs, dental sealants and credit card and ATM receipts. Government studies estimate that the chemical has been found in the urine of more than 90 percent of the population.

Foodmakers started looking for alternatives in 2008, after public pressure spurred manufacturers of plastic baby bottles to voluntarily rid their products of BPA. Several municipalities, Minnesota and Canada banned BPA from baby bottles. And Congress is considering a bill filed by Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., and Rep. Edward J. Markey, D-Mass., that would ban BPA from baby bottles, sports water bottles, reusable food containers, infant formula liners and food can liners.

But foodmakers say they aren’t waiting for legislation or regulation.

“It doesn’t matter what FDA says. If consumers decide they don’t want BPA, you don’t want to be in a can that consumers don’t want to buy,” said one source at a major U.S. food company who spoke on the condition of anonymity. Major food companies declined to talk publicly about their efforts to find a replacement for BPA linings. “We don’t have a safe, effective alternative, and that’s an unhappy place to be,” the source said. “No one wants to talk about that.”

Heinz, for instance, says it has switched to BPA-free cans for some products but will not identify them or say what substitute it is using. General Mills, which owns the Progresso and Muir Glen lines of canned products, said it is testing BPA-free cans but would not elaborate. “We are optimistic that safe and viable alternatives will be identified in time,” said Thomas Forsythe, a company spokesman.

The Environmental Protection Agency has declared the daily safe BPA exposure limit at 50 mg per kilogram of body weight, a level set in the 1980s. A growing body of peer-reviewed research in the past decade has suggested that very low levels — below the federal threshold — might be responsible for health problems. BPA is a synthetic version of estrogen, and scientists disagree about whether it causes lasting effects by triggering subtle cellular changes.

John M. Rost, chairman of the North American Metal Packaging Alliance, which represents the canned food and beverage industry, said BPA has been “used safely in metal food packaging for decades. They have been deemed safe by regulatory agencies around the world.” He also said there hasn’t been a case of food-borne illness resulting from a failure of metal packaging since the industry began using BPA in its linings more than 30 years ago.

Commercial uses of BPA exploded in the 1950s after scientists discovered its ability to make plastics more durable and shatterproof. By 1963, scientists were using it to create epoxy linings for steel cans, which held up under heat and other extreme conditions. Because the BPA linings extended the shelf life of canned goods, did not affect taste, prevented bacterial contamination and were relatively cheap, they became the industry standard by the 1970s.

The FDA does not know which companies use BPA, how much they use or how it is applied, because manufacturers are not required to disclose that information.

Some companies have had trouble finding out whether their cans contain BPA.

Michael Potter, chief executive of Eden Foods, which makes canned organic products, began asking suppliers about his can linings after reading German research about BPA. “Trying to determine what was in the can linings that I was purchasing to put food in was a daunting task,” he said. “Inevitably, you end up speaking to a large law firm inside the Beltway that says you don’t have the right to know.”

It took two years, but in 1999, Potter prompted one supplier, the Ball Corp., to switch to a can lined with oleoresin, a mixture of oil and a resin extracted from plants such as pine.

The new cans are 14 percent more expensive, about 2.2 additional cents per can, Potter said. “It went into our costing, and we passed it onto our customers,” he said.

But oleoresin deteriorates in contact with acidic food, forcing Eden Foods to use BPA in its linings for canned tomatoes. Potter said that was why trace amounts of BPA — one part per billion — were detected by Consumers Union in Eden Foods’ baked beans. The beans were made with tomato puree that had been stored in a can with a BPA lining.

The EPA and the FDA, which oversees the use of BPA in food and beverage containers, are reviewing the chemical in light of new research. Last month, the FDA said it would launch fast-track studies to clarify the research on BPA. It is also encouraging manufacturers to migrate away from the chemical.

But the process is slow, because testing must take into account a shelf life of two to five years for most canned foods. “You don’t want to find out that you made a switch based on six months of data but by 18 months the lining breaks down and people are eating it,” an industry source said.

Makers of plastic bottles found a quick and relatively simple BPA substitute, polypropylene, but canned-food makers are having considerably more trouble.

Foodmakers say that some alternative linings disintegrate, reducing a product’s shelf life. Other linings can’t withstand the high heat applied to certain canned products to kill bacteria. Still others interfere with taste.

Consumer concerns led Japanese manufacturers to voluntarily reduce the use of BPA between 1998 and 2003. But because cans were primarily used for drinks, they could use a relatively simple polyester substitute. The Japanese also got rid of tableware containing BPA used for school lunches. After the change, Japanese scientists documented a significant drop in BPA levels in research subjects’ blood.

Aaron L. Brody, a food packaging expert who teaches at the University of Georgia, said that even if health concerns are not valid, “if they had an economic can coating that could be applied to food and/or beverage cans today, the coatings industry, the canning industry, would have applied it instantly to get this monkey off their back.”

Why BPA Hasn't Been Eliminated

"One of the primary uses of BPA is to make epoxy resins, which are formed by a chemical reaction of BPA with other substances," noted Steve Hentges, Ph.D., executive director of the American Chemistry Council's Polycarbonate/BPA Global Group. "Only trace levels of residual BPA remain in a finished epoxy resin, and without BPA, epoxy resins would not exist."

If a BPA lining were not used, Hentges told TechNewsWorld, canned foods would most certainly become poisonous.

"Most food and beverage cans include epoxy resins that provide real and important health benefits by preventing corrosion of the metal can and contamination of food," he explained.

"Further, epoxy resin coatings function well at high temperatures, which facilitate sterilization of food products when initially packaged," added Hentges. "The high performance of epoxy resin coatings also helps to achieve long shelf life in canned products."

The ACC's mission, of course, is "to deliver business value to its members through exceptional advocacy based on enhanced member performance, high quality scientific research, communications, effective participation in the political process, and a commitment to sustainable development through member contributions to economic, environmental and societal progress."

The organization represents the leading companies engaged in the business of chemistry, which is a US$664 billion enterprise and a key element of the U.S. economy.

The FDA Just Banned These Chemicals in Food. Are They the Tip of the Iceberg?

FDA banned three toxic food packaging chemicals and is considering banning seven cancer-causing food flavoring chemicals, but food safety advocates say the process highlights flaws in the system.

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On Monday, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) announced that it will withdraw its approval for three chemicals used to make grease, stain, and water repelling food packaging and consider banning seven food additives used in both “artificial” and “natural” flavors. While the news may have gotten lost during the first post-holiday weekday, it’s worth noting. And it raises much larger questions about one of the agencies with the most control over the safety of what we eat. Here’s what you need to know.

A Rare Response

The ban, which goes into effect in February, comes in response to a petition filed with the FDA by a handful of environmental groups, including the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC ) , Environmental Working Group (EWG), and others. What makes it significant, says Erik Olson, health and environment program director at NRDC, is the fact that, “It is the first time the FDA has actually banned a [chemical’s] use based on a petition” and done so “based on safety information.”

But despite this unusual response on the part of an agency, the ban itself may be too little too late, say some environmental advocates.

No-stick, No Guarantee of Safety

The banned chemicals are all perfluorinated compounds (PFCs), a class of chemicals used to coat things like pizza boxes, pastry wrappers, take-out food containers, paper plates, and non-stick cookware. In other words, they’re the kind of chemical most of us might be ingesting without knowing it. PFCs have raised environmental and human health concerns because they last for a very long time in the environment and have been found in wildlife worldwide and in people—including newborns and nearly every American the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has tested.

In lab studies, PFCs have been linked to adverse effects on hormones, reproductive, developmental, neurological and immune systems, and to certain cancers. Last year, a group of more than 200 scientists from 38 countries issued a statement expressing their concern about this type of chemical and calling for policies to limit their production and use.

In its announcement this week , the FDA said the agency is taking this action because it can no longer say there is “a reasonably certainty of no harm” from use of these chemicals in food contact products. The FDA also acknowledged that it lacks adequate information about the chemicals’ migration from packaging into food itself as well as information about the chemicals’ developmental and reproductive toxicity.

While this candor on the part of the agency might be refreshing to some, Olson says it “highlights concerns we have with the whole system that has approved chemicals for these uses without fundamental data.”

And that’s not all. As EWG’s president Ken Cook said in a statement, “Industrial chemicals that pollute people’s blood clearly have no place in food packaging…But it has taken the FDA more than 10 years to figure that out, and it’s banning only three chemicals that aren’t even made anymore.”

Bringing Imported Foods up to the Same Standards

Indeed, the banned chemicals are three of what are known as “C8” or long-chain PFCs that the agency worked with manufacturers to voluntarily discontinue about five years ago. According to the Society of the Plastics Industry­—a major U.S. plastics industry trade group—these substance are no longer manufactured here for food-contact use.

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Yet, while U.S. production of these three chemicals has been shut down, they are produced in China and India. As Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) chemicals policy director Tom Neltner explained to Civil Eats, the FDA’s action, “prevents these additives from being used in the future,” and in packaging on the millions of pounds of food that is imported to the U.S. every year. Without this week’s ban, consumers would have to rely entirely on voluntary action to keep these chemicals out of food packaging.

And while the FDA has focused on C8, it’s not clear that the shorter-chain chemicals that are being used to replace them are actually safe. The latter are also environmentally persistent and there’s a lack of information about their toxicity. “What is obviously worrisome is that there are a lot of other compounds out there and we don’t know what’s being used,” says Olson.

Behind the Flavor

At the same time the FDA announced this ban, it also agreed to review a petition from a similar group of environmental organizations asking that the agency bar the use of seven food flavoring chemicals that are classified as carcinogens. The substance names are mostly obscure: benzophenone, ethyl acrylate, eugenyl methyl ether, myrcene, pulegone, pyridine, and styrene.

These are the compounds you don’t see listed in food because they’re often classified as “artificial” or “natural” flavors. But all have been found to be carcinogenic—either by the U.S. National Toxicology Program or the World Health Organization’s (WHO) International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC). And all but one are listed as carcinogens under California’s Proposition 65 .

On paper, carcinogenic food additives are illegal in this country. But, as EDF’s Neltner explains, “There is no look back, there is no reassessment.” In fact, as an FDA spokesperson said to Civil Eats, “Our subject matter experts monitor scientific literature and take action as needed,” but the FDA has no structured program to review previously approved food additive or food contact chemicals.

NRDC’s Olson says that “we’ve been banging on FDA’s door about for many years” about the agency’s lack of a formal review process for new science. When the FDA does review food additives it is usually in response to a petition from a public interest group, says Neltner. “I think there needs to be a reassessment system,” he says.

According to the petition submitted by the environmental groups, these chemicals are used to flavor ice cream, candy, baked goods, jellies, and beverages. Civil Eats reached out to several major food manufacturers that are members of the Flavor & Extract Manufacturers Association (FEMA, not to be confused with the Federal Emergency Management Agency) and did not receive a response about use of these substances.

But FEMA’s executive director John Cox said in a statement that, “The substances are permitted for use by the FDA and have not been identified as carcinogens by the FDA,” and that these seven chemical are approved by the WHO’s food additive committee. Cox also added that these chemicals are “naturally occurring substances” found at higher levels in fruit, vegetables, and spices.

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Neltner disputes this assertion saying the chemicals in the petition may occur naturally, but not in the purified and manufactured form that get added to processed foods. “Is the industry actually arguing that styrene, pyridine, and benzophenone are natural flavors? It makes wonder what they call an ‘artificial’ flavor,” he wrote in an email.

Since many of these chemicals are typically used in proprietary flavor blends—secret recipes not unlike perfume formulas—“if you’re a consumer, there’s no way of avoiding them” says NRDC’s Olson. Unless of course you want to spend your time scanning ingredients lists for all “added flavors.”

The concerns about all of these chemicals—the flavor additives and the food packaging additives—highlight larger systemic problems at the FDA, say Neltner and Olson. Food companies are free to use a vast number of these chemicals without specific permission from the agency despite huge existing toxicity data gaps on the thousands of food additive and food contact chemicals in use. Take the example of these seven food flavorings. As Neltner explained, the FDA approved these substances in 1964 before it had evidence they were carcinogens, and the agency has not reevaluated its decisions since then.

“FDA has such limited resources that it rarely looks back at old decisions even when its sister agency, the National Toxicology Program, demonstrates that they cause harm,” Neltner noted. “When it does look back, it is usually as a result of petitions submitted by the public interest community.”

The FDA is accepting public comments on the food flavoring petition until March 4, 2016.

Elizabeth Grossman was a senior reporter for Civil Eats from 2014 to 2017, where she focused on environmental and science issues. She is the author of Chasing Molecules, High Tech Trash, Watershed and other books. Her work appeared in a variety of publications, including National Geographic News, The Guardian, The Intercept, Scientific American, Environmental Health Perspectives, Yale e360, Ensia, High Country News, The Washington Post, Salon, The Nation, and Mother Jones. She passed away in July 2017, leaving behind a legacy of dedication to her mission of journalism that supports and protects people and the planet. Read more >

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Whether its a chemical, medicine, or packaging, if it has FLUOR or FLOX in it, it contains fluorine/fluoride, the same stuff as in our water and dental products. and you should NOT be using it, because it is a poison.

"Fluoride is an enzyme poison, in the same class as cyanide, oxalate, or azide . it is capable of a very wide variety of harmful effects, even at low doses." - James B. Patrick, Ph.D., National Institute of Health statement to Congress (1982)

“The evidence that fluoride is more harmful than beneficial is now overwhelming… fluoride may be destroying our bones, our teeth, and our overall health.” - Dr. Hardy Limeback BSc, PhD, DDS, former President of Canadian Association of Dental Research, 2006 NRC panelist (2007)


The term endocrine disruptor was coined at the Wingspread Conference Center in Wisconsin, in 1991. One of the early papers on the phenomenon was by Theo Colborn in 1993. [14] In this paper, she stated that environmental chemicals disrupt the development of the endocrine system, and that effects of exposure during development are often permanent. Although the endocrine disruption has been disputed by some, [15] work sessions from 1992 to 1999 have generated consensus statements from scientists regarding the hazard from endocrine disruptors, particularly in wildlife and also in humans. [16] [17] [18] [19] [20]

The Endocrine Society released a scientific statement outlining mechanisms and effects of endocrine disruptors on “male and female reproduction, breast development and cancer, prostate cancer, neuroendocrinology, thyroid, metabolism and obesity, and cardiovascular endocrinology,” and showing how experimental and epidemiological studies converge with human clinical observations “to implicate endocrine disruptive chemicals (EDCs) as a significant concern to public health.” The statement noted that it is difficult to show that endocrine disruptors cause human diseases, and it recommended that the precautionary principle should be followed. [21] A concurrent statement expresses policy concerns. [22]

Endocrine disrupting compounds encompass a variety of chemical classes, including drugs, pesticides, compounds used in the plastics industry and in consumer products, industrial by-products and pollutants, and even some naturally produced botanical chemicals. Some are pervasive and widely dispersed in the environment and may bioaccumulate. Some are persistent organic pollutants (POPs), and can be transported long distances across national boundaries and have been found in virtually all regions of the world, and may even concentrate near the North Pole, due to weather patterns and cold conditions. [23] Others are rapidly degraded in the environment or human body or may be present for only short periods of time. [24] Health effects attributed to endocrine disrupting compounds include a range of reproductive problems (reduced fertility, male and female reproductive tract abnormalities, and skewed male/female sex ratios, loss of fetus, menstrual problems [25] ) changes in hormone levels early puberty brain and behavior problems impaired immune functions and various cancers. [26]

One example of the consequences of the exposure of developing animals, including humans, to hormonally active agents is the case of the drug diethylstilbestrol (DES), a nonsteroidal estrogen and not an environmental pollutant. Prior to its ban in the early 1970s, doctors prescribed DES to as many as five million pregnant women to block spontaneous abortion, an off-label use of this medication prior to 1947. It was discovered after the children went through puberty that DES affected the development of the reproductive system and caused vaginal cancer. The relevance of the DES saga to the risks of exposure to endocrine disruptors is questionable, as the doses involved are much higher in these individuals than in those due to environmental exposures. [27]

Aquatic life subjected to endocrine disruptors in an urban effluent have experienced decreased levels of serotonin and increased feminization. [28]

In 2013 the WHO and the United Nations Environment Programme released a study, the most comprehensive report on EDCs to date, calling for more research to fully understand the associations between EDCs and the risks to health of human and animal life. The team pointed to wide gaps in knowledge and called for more research to obtain a fuller picture of the health and environmental impacts of endocrine disruptors. To improve global knowledge the team has recommended:

  • Testing: known EDCs are only the 'tip of the iceberg' and more comprehensive testing methods are required to identify other possible endocrine disruptors, their sources, and routes of exposure.
  • Research: more scientific evidence is needed to identify the effects of mixtures of EDCs on humans and wildlife (mainly from industrial by-products) to which humans and wildlife are increasingly exposed.
  • Reporting: many sources of EDCs are not known because of insufficient reporting and information on chemicals in products, materials and goods.
  • Collaboration: more data sharing between scientists and between countries can fill gaps in data, primarily in developing countries and emerging economies.[29]

Endocrine systems are found in most varieties of animals. The endocrine system consists of glands that secrete hormones, and receptors that detect and react to the hormones.

Hormones travel throughout the body and act as chemical messengers. Hormones interface with cells that contain matching receptors in or on their surfaces. The hormone binds with the receptor, much like a key would fit into a lock. The endocrine system regulates adjustments through slower internal processes, using hormones as messengers. The endocrine system secretes hormones in response to environmental stimuli and to orchestrate developmental and reproductive changes. The adjustments brought on by the endocrine system are biochemical, changing the cell's internal and external chemistry to bring about a long term change in the body. These systems work together to maintain the proper functioning of the body through its entire life cycle. Sex steroids such as estrogens and androgens, as well as thyroid hormones, are subject to feedback regulation, which tends to limit the sensitivity of these glands.

Hormones work at very small doses (part per billion ranges). Endocrine disruption can thereby also occur from low-dose exposure to exogenous hormones or hormonally active chemicals such as bisphenol A. These chemical can bind to receptors for other hormonally mediated processes. [30] Furthermore, since endogenous hormones are already present in the body in biologically active concentrations, additional exposure to relatively small amounts of exogenous hormonally active substances can disrupt the proper functioning of the body's endocrine system. Thus, an endocrine disruptor can elicit adverse effects at much lower doses than a toxicity, acting through a different mechanism.

The timing of exposure is also critical. Most critical stages of development occur in utero, where the fertilized egg divides, rapidly developing every structure of a fully formed baby, including much of the wiring in the brain. Interfering with the hormonal communication in utero can have profound effects both structurally and toward brain development. Depending on the stage of reproductive development, interference with hormonal signaling can result in irreversible effects not seen in adults exposed to the same dose for the same length of time. [31] [32] [33] Experiments with animals have identified critical developmental time points in utero and days after birth when exposure to chemicals that interfere with or mimic hormones have adverse effects that persist into adulthood. [32] [34] [35] [36] Disruption of thyroid function early in development may be the cause of abnormal sexual development in both males [37] and females [38] early motor development impairment, [39] and learning disabilities. [40]

There are studies of cell cultures, laboratory animals, wildlife, and accidentally exposed humans that show that environmental chemicals cause a wide range of reproductive, developmental, growth, and behavior effects, and so while "endocrine disruption in humans by pollutant chemicals remains largely undemonstrated, the underlying science is sound and the potential for such effects is real." [41] While compounds that produce estrogenic, androgenic, antiandrogenic, and antithyroid actions have been studied, less is known about interactions with other hormones.

The interrelationships between exposures to chemicals and health effects are rather complex. It is hard to definitively link a particular chemical with a specific health effect, and exposed adults may not show any ill effects. But, fetuses and embryos, whose growth and development are highly controlled by the endocrine system, are more vulnerable to exposure and may suffer overt or subtle lifelong health and/or reproductive abnormalities. [42] Prebirth exposure, in some cases, can lead to permanent alterations and adult diseases. [43]

Some in the scientific community are concerned that exposure to endocrine disruptors in the womb or early in life may be associated with neurodevelopmental disorders including reduced IQ, ADHD, and autism. [44] Certain cancers and uterine abnormalities in women are associated with exposure to Diethylstilbestrol (DES) in the womb due to DES used as a medical treatment.

In another case, phthalates in pregnant women’s urine was linked to subtle, but specific, genital changes in their male infants – a shorter, more female-like anogenital distance and associated incomplete descent of testes and a smaller scrotum and penis. [45] The science behind this study has been questioned by phthalate industry consultants. [46] As of June 2008, there are only five studies of anogenital distance in humans, [47] and one researcher has stated "Whether AGD measures in humans relate to clinically important outcomes, however, remains to be determined, as does its utility as a measure of androgen action in epidemiologic studies." [48]

While the fact that there are chemical differences between endocrine disruptors and endogenous hormones have sometimes been cited as an argument for endocrine disruptors affecting only some (not all) of the traits that are affected by hormones, toxicology research shows that many of the effects of endocrine disruptors target the aspects of hormone effects that make one hormone regulate the production and/or degradation of the body's own hormones. These regulation effects are intertwined so that a hormone that is level affected by another hormone in turn affects the levels of multiple other hormones produced by the body itself, leaving no endogenous hormones or traits affected by them unaffected by endocrine disruptors. [49] [50] Endocrine disruptors have the potential to mimic or antagonize natural hormones, these chemicals can exert their effects by acting through interaction with nuclear receptors, the aryl hydrocarbon receptor or membrane bound receptors. [51] [52]

Most toxicants, including endocrine disruptors, have been claimed to follow a U-shaped dose response curve. [53] This means that very low and very high levels have more effects than mid-level exposure to a toxicant. [54] Endocrine disrupting effects have been noted in animals exposed to environmentally relevant levels of some chemicals. For example, a common flame retardant, BDE-47, affects the reproductive system and thyroid gland of female rats in doses of the order of those to which humans are exposed. [55] Low concentrations of endocrine disruptors can also have synergistic effects in amphibians, but it is not clear that this is an effect mediated through the endocrine system. [56]

Critics have argued that data suggest that the amounts of chemicals in the environment are too low to cause an effect. A consensus statement by the Learning and Developmental Disabilities Initiative argued that "The very low-dose effects of endocrine disruptors cannot be predicted from high-dose studies, which contradicts the standard 'dose makes the poison' rule of toxicology. Nontraditional dose-response curves are referred to as nonmonotonic dose response curves." [44]

The dosage objection could also be overcome if low concentrations of different endocrine disruptors are synergistic. [57] This paper was published in Science in June 1996, and was one reason for the passage of the Food Quality Protection Act of 1996. [58] The results could not be confirmed with the same and alternative methodologies, [59] and the original paper was retracted, [60] with Arnold found to have committed scientific misconduct by the United States Office of Research Integrity. [12]

It has been claimed that Tamoxifen and some phthalates have fundamentally different (and harmful) effects on the body at low doses than at high doses. [61]

Food is a major mechanism by which people are exposed to pollutants. Diet is thought to account for up to 90% of a person's PCB and DDT body burden. [62] In a study of 32 different common food products from three grocery stores in Dallas, fish and other animal products were found to be contaminated with PBDE. [63] Since these compounds are fat soluble, it is likely they are accumulating from the environment in the fatty tissue of animals we eat. Some suspect fish consumption is a major source of many environmental contaminants. Indeed, both wild and farmed salmon from all over the world have been shown to contain a variety of man-made organic compounds. [64]

With the increase in household products containing pollutants and the decrease in the quality of building ventilation, indoor air has become a significant source of pollutant exposure. [65] Residents living in homes with wood floors treated in the 1960s with PCB-based wood finish have a much higher body burden than the general population. [66] A study of indoor house dust and dryer lint of 16 homes found high levels of all 22 different PBDE congeners tested for in all samples. [67] Recent studies suggest that contaminated house dust, not food, may be the major source of PBDE in our bodies. [68] [69] One study estimated that ingestion of house dust accounts for up to 82% of our PBDE body burden. [70]

It has been shown that contaminated house dust is a primary source of lead in young children's bodies. [71] It may be that babies and toddlers ingest more contaminated house dust than the adults they live with, and therefore have much higher levels of pollutants in their systems.

Consumer goods are another potential source of exposure to endocrine disruptors. An analysis of the composition of 42 household cleaning and personal care products versus 43 "chemical free" products has been performed. The products contained 55 different chemical compounds: 50 were found in the 42 conventional samples representing 170 product types, while 41 were detected in 43 "chemical free" samples representing 39 product types. Parabens, a class of chemicals that has been associated with reproductive-tract issues, were detected in seven of the "chemical free" products, including three sunscreens that did not list parabens on the label. Vinyl products such as shower curtains were found to contain more than 10% by weight of the compound DEHP, which when present in dust has been associated with asthma and wheezing in children. The risk of exposure to EDCs increases as products, both conventional and "chemical free," are used in combination. "If a consumer used the alternative surface cleaner, tub and tile cleaner, laundry detergent, bar soap, shampoo and conditioner, facial cleanser and lotion, and toothpaste [he or she] would potentially be exposed to at least 19 compounds: 2 parabens, 3 phthalates, MEA, DEA, 5 alkylphenols, and 7 fragrances." [72]

An analysis of the endocrine disrupting chemicals in Old Order Mennonite women in mid-pregnancy determined that they have much lower levels in their systems than the general population. Mennonites eat mostly fresh, unprocessed foods, farm without pesticides, and use few or no cosmetics or personal care products. One woman who had reported using hairspray and perfume had high levels of monoethyl phthalate, while the other women all had levels below detection. Three women who reported being in a car or truck within 48 hours of providing a urine sample had higher levels of diethylhexyl phthalate which is found in polyvinyl chloride, and is used in car interiors. [73]

Additives added to plastics during manufacturing may leach into the environment after the plastic item is discarded additives in microplastics in the ocean leach into ocean water and in plastics in landfills may escape and leach into the soil and then into groundwater. [74]

All people are exposed to chemicals with estrogenic effects in their everyday life, because endocrine disrupting chemicals are found in low doses in thousands of products. Chemicals commonly detected in people include DDT, polychlorinated biphenyls (PCB's), bisphenol A (BPA), polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDE's), and a variety of phthalates. [75] In fact, almost all plastic products, including those advertised as "BPA free", have been found to leach endocrine-disrupting chemicals. [76] In a 2011, study it was found that some "BPA-free" products released more endocrine active chemicals than the BPA-containing products. [77] [78] Other forms of endocrine disruptors are phytoestrogens (plant hormones). [79]

Xenoestrogens Edit

Xenoestrogens are a type of xenohormone that imitates estrogen. Synthetic xenoestrogens include widely used industrial compounds, such as PCBs, BPA and phthalates, which have estrogenic effects on a living organism.

Alkylphenols Edit

Alkylphenols are xenoestrogens. [80] The European Union has implemented sales and use restrictions on certain applications in which nonylphenols are used because of their alleged "toxicity, persistence, and the liability to bioaccumulate" but the United States Environmental Protections Agency (EPA) has taken a slower approach to make sure that action is based on "sound science". [81]

The long-chain alkylphenols are used extensively as precursors to the detergents, as additives for fuels and lubricants, polymers, and as components in phenolic resins. These compounds are also used as building block chemicals that are also used in making fragrances, thermoplastic elastomers, antioxidants, oil field chemicals and fire retardant materials. Through the downstream use in making alkylphenolic resins, alkylphenols are also found in tires, adhesives, coatings, carbonless copy paper and high performance rubber products. They have been used in industry for over 40 years.

Certain alkylphenols are degradation products from nonionic detergents. Nonylphenol is considered to be a low-level endocrine disruptor owing to its tendency to mimic estrogen. [82] [83]

Bisphenol A (BPA) Edit

Bisphenol A is commonly found in plastic bottles, plastic food containers, dental materials, and the linings of metal food and infant formula cans. Another exposure comes from receipt paper commonly used at grocery stores and restaurants, because today the paper is commonly coated with a BPA containing clay for printing purposes. [84]

BPA is a known endocrine disruptor, and numerous studies have found that laboratory animals exposed to low levels of it have elevated rates of diabetes, mammary and prostate cancers, decreased sperm count, reproductive problems, early puberty, obesity, and neurological problems. [85] [86] [87] [88] Early developmental stages appear to be the period of greatest sensitivity to its effects, and some studies have linked prenatal exposure to later physical and neurological difficulties. [89] Regulatory bodies have determined safety levels for humans, but those safety levels are currently being questioned or are under review as a result of new scientific studies. [90] [91] A 2011 cross-sectional study that investigated the number of chemicals pregnant women are exposed to in the U.S. found BPA in 96% of women. [92] In 2010 the World Health Organization expert panel recommended no new regulations limiting or banning the use of bisphenol A, stating that "initiation of public health measures would be premature." [93]

In August 2008, the U.S. FDA issued a draft reassessment, reconfirming their initial opinion that, based on scientific evidence, it is safe. [94] However, in October 2008, FDA's advisory Science Board concluded that the Agency's assessment was "flawed" and hadn't proven the chemical to be safe for formula-fed infants. [95] In January 2010, the FDA issued a report indicating that, due to findings of recent studies that used novel approaches in testing for subtle effects, both the National Toxicology Program at the National Institutes of Health as well as the FDA have some level of concern regarding the possible effects of BPA on the brain and behavior of fetuses, infants and younger children. [96] In 2012 the FDA did ban the use of BPA in baby bottles, however the Environmental Working Group called the ban "purely cosmetic". In a statement they said, “If the agency truly wants to prevent people from being exposed to this toxic chemical associated with a variety of serious and chronic conditions it should ban its use in cans of infant formula, food and beverages." The Natural Resources Defense Council called the move inadequate saying, the FDA needs to ban BPA from all food packaging. [97] In a statement a FDA spokesman said the agency's action was not based on safety concerns and that "the agency continues to support the safety of BPA for use in products that hold food." [98]

A program initiated by NIEHS, NTP, and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (named CLARITY-BPA) found no effect of chronic exposure to BPA on rats [99] and the FDA considers currently authorized uses of BPA to be safe for consumers. [100]

Bisphenol S (BPS) and Bisphenol F (BPF) Edit

Bisphenol S and Bisphenol F are analogs of bisphenol A. They are commonly found in thermal receipts, plastics, and household dust.

Traces of BPS have also been found in personal care products. [101] It is more presently being used because of the ban of BPA. BPS is used in place of BPA in “BPA free” items. However BPS and BPF have been shown to be as much of an endocrine disruptor as BPA. [102] [103]

DDT Edit

Dichlorodiphenyltrichloroethane (DDT) was first used as a pesticide against Colorado potato beetles on crops beginning in 1936. [104] An increase in the incidence of malaria, epidemic typhus, dysentery, and typhoid fever led to its use against the mosquitoes, lice, and houseflies that carried these diseases. Before World War II, pyrethrum, an extract of a flower from Japan, had been used to control these insects and the diseases they can spread. During World War II, Japan stopped exporting pyrethrum, forcing the search for an alternative. Fearing an epidemic outbreak of typhus, every British and American soldier was issued DDT, who used it to routinely dust beds, tents, and barracks all over the world.

DDT was approved for general, non-military use after the war ended. [104] It became used worldwide to increase monoculture crop yields that were threatened by pest infestation, and to reduce the spread of malaria which had a high mortality rate in many parts of the world. Its use for agricultural purposes has since been prohibited by national legislation of most countries, while its use as a control against malaria vectors is permitted, as specifically stated by the Stockholm Convention on Persistent Organic Pollutants [105]

As early as 1946, the harmful effects of DDT on bird, beneficial insects, fish, and marine invertebrates were seen in the environment. The most infamous example of these effects were seen in the eggshells of large predatory birds, which did not develop to be thick enough to support the adult bird sitting on them. [106] Further studies found DDT in high concentrations in carnivores all over the world, the result of biomagnification through the food chain. [107] Twenty years after its widespread use, DDT was found trapped in ice samples taken from Antarctic snow, suggesting wind and water are another means of environmental transport. [108] Recent studies show the historical record of DDT deposition on remote glaciers in the Himalayas. [109]

More than sixty years ago when biologists began to study the effects of DDT on laboratory animals, it was discovered that DDT interfered with reproductive development. [110] [111] Recent studies suggest DDT may inhibit the proper development of female reproductive organs that adversely affects reproduction into maturity. [112] Additional studies suggest that a marked decrease in fertility in adult males may be due to DDT exposure. [113] Most recently, it has been suggested that exposure to DDT in utero can increase a child's risk of childhood obesity. [114] DDT is still used as anti-malarial insecticide in Africa and parts of Southeast Asia in limited quantities.

Polychlorinated biphenyls Edit

Polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) are a class of chlorinated compounds used as industrial coolants and lubricants. PCBs are created by heating benzene, a byproduct of gasoline refining, with chlorine. [115] They were first manufactured commercially by the Swann Chemical Company in 1927. [116] In 1933, the health effects of direct PCB exposure was seen in those who worked with the chemicals at the manufacturing facility in Alabama. In 1935, Monsanto acquired the company, taking over US production and licensing PCB manufacturing technology internationally.

General Electric was one of the largest US companies to incorporate PCBs into manufactured equipment. [116] Between 1952 and 1977, the New York GE plant had dumped more than 500,000 pounds of PCB waste into the Hudson River. PCBs were first discovered in the environment far from its industrial use by scientists in Sweden studying DDT. [117]

The effects of acute exposure to PCBs were well known within the companies who used Monsanto's PCB formulation who saw the effects on their workers who came into contact with it regularly. Direct skin contact results in a severe acne-like condition called chloracne. [118] Exposure increases the risk of skin cancer, [119] liver cancer, [120] and brain cancer. [119] [121] Monsanto tried for years to downplay the health problems related to PCB exposure in order to continue sales. [122]

The detrimental health effects of PCB exposure to humans became undeniable when two separate incidents of contaminated cooking oil poisoned thousands of residents in Japan (Yushō disease, 1968) and Taiwan (Yu-cheng disease, 1979), [123] leading to a worldwide ban on PCB use in 1977. Recent studies show the endocrine interference of certain PCB congeners is toxic to the liver and thyroid, [124] increases childhood obesity in children exposed prenatally, [114] and may increase the risk of developing diabetes. [125] [126]

PCBs in the environment may also be related to reproductive and infertility problems in wildlife. In Alaska, it is thought that they may contribute to reproductive defects, infertility and antler malformation in some deer populations. Declines in the populations of otters and sea lions may also be partially due to their exposure to PCBs, the insecticide DDT, other persistent organic pollutants. Bans and restrictions on the use of EDCs have been associated with a reduction in health problems and the recovery of some wildlife populations. [127]

Polybrominated diphenyl ethers Edit

Polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDEs) are a class of compounds found in flame retardants used in plastic cases of televisions and computers, electronics, carpets, lighting, bedding, clothing, car components, foam cushions and other textiles. Potential health concern: PBDE's are structurally very similar to Polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), and have similar neurotoxic effects. [128] Research has correlated halogenated hydrocarbons, such as PCBs, with neurotoxicity. [124] PBDEs are similar in chemical structure to PCBs, and it has been suggested that PBDEs act by the same mechanism as PCBs. [124]

In the 1930s and 1940s, the plastics industry developed technologies to create a variety of plastics with broad applications. [129] Once World War II began, the US military used these new plastic materials to improve weapons, protect equipment, and to replace heavy components in aircraft and vehicles. [129] After WWII, manufacturers saw the potential plastics could have in many industries, and plastics were incorporated into new consumer product designs. Plastics began to replace wood and metal in existing products as well, and today plastics are the most widely used manufacturing materials. [129]

By the 1960s, all homes were wired with electricity and had numerous electrical appliances. Cotton had been the dominant textile used to produce home furnishings, [130] but now home furnishings were composed of mostly synthetic materials. More than 500 billion cigarettes were consumed each year in the 1960s, as compared to less than 3 billion per year in the beginning of the twentieth century. [131] When combined with high density living, the potential for home fires was higher in the 1960s than it had ever been in the US. By the late 1970s, approximately 6000 people in the US died each year in home fires. [132]

In 1972, in response to this situation, the National Commission on Fire Prevention and Control was created to study the fire problem in the US. In 1973 they published their findings in America Burning, a 192-page report [133] that made recommendations to increase fire prevention. Most of the recommendations dealt with fire prevention education and improved building engineering, such as the installation of fire sprinklers and smoke detectors. The Commission expected that with the recommendations, a 5% reduction in fire losses could be expected each year, halving the annual losses within 14 years.

Historically, treatments with alum and borax were used to reduce the flammability of fabric and wood, as far back as Roman times. [134] Since it is a non-absorbent material once created, flame retardant chemicals are added to plastic during the polymerization reaction when it is formed. Organic compounds based on halogens like bromine and chlorine are used as the flame retardant additive in plastics, and in fabric based textiles as well. [134] The widespread use of brominated flame retardants may be due to the push from Great Lakes Chemical Corporation (GLCC) to profit from its huge investment in bromine. [135] In 1992, the world market consumed approximately 150,000 tonnes of bromine-based flame retardants, and GLCC produced 30% of the world supply. [134]

PBDEs have the potential to disrupt thyroid hormone balance and contribute to a variety of neurological and developmental deficits, including low intelligence and learning disabilities. [136] [137] Many of the most common PBDE's were banned in the European Union in 2006. [138] Studies with rodents have suggested that even brief exposure to PBDEs can cause developmental and behavior problems in juvenile rodents [39] [139] and exposure interferes with proper thyroid hormone regulation. [140]

Phthalates Edit

Phthalates are found in some soft toys, flooring, medical equipment, cosmetics and air fresheners. They are of potential health concern because they are known to disrupt the endocrine system of animals, and some research has implicated them in the rise of birth defects of the male reproductive system. [45] [141] [142]

Although an expert panel has concluded that there is "insufficient evidence" that they can harm the reproductive system of infants, [143] California, [144] [145] Washington state and Europe have banned them from toys. One phthalate, bis(2-ethylhexyl) phthalate (DEHP), used in medical tubing, catheters and blood bags, may harm sexual development in male infants. [141] In 2002, the Food and Drug Administration released a public report which cautioned against exposing male babies to DEHP. Although there are no direct human studies the FDA report states: "Exposure to DEHP has produced a range of adverse effects in laboratory animals, but of greatest concern are effects on the development of the male reproductive system and production of normal sperm in young animals. In view of the available animal data, precautions should be taken to limit the exposure of the developing male to DEHP". [146] Similarly, phthalates may play a causal role in disrupting masculine neurological development when exposed prenatally. [147]

Dibutyl phthalate (DBP) has also disrupted insulin and glucagon signaling in animal models. [148]

Perfluorooctanoic acid Edit

PFOA exerts hormonal effects including alteration of thyroid hormone levels. Blood serum levels of PFOA were associated with an increased time to pregnancy — or "infertility" — in a 2009 study. PFOA exposure is associated with decreased semen quality. PFOA appeared to act as an endocrine disruptor by a potential mechanism on breast maturation in young girls. A C8 Science Panel status report noted an association between exposure in girls and a later onset of puberty.

Other suspected endocrine disruptors Edit

Some other examples of putative EDCs are polychlorinated dibenzo-dioxins (PCDDs) and -furans (PCDFs), polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs), phenol derivatives and a number of pesticides (most prominent being organochlorine insecticides like endosulfan, kepone (chlordecone) and DDT and its derivatives, the herbicide atrazine, and the fungicide vinclozolin), the contraceptive 17-alpha ethinylestradiol, as well as naturally occurring phytoestrogens such as genistein and mycoestrogens such as zearalenone.

The molting in crustaceans is an endocrine-controlled process. In the marine penaeid shrimp Litopenaeus vannamei, exposure to endosulfan resulted increased susceptibility to acute toxicity and increased mortalities in the postmolt stage of the shrimp. [149]

Many sunscreens contain oxybenzone, a chemical blocker that provides broad-spectrum UV coverage, yet is subject to a lot of controversy due its potential estrogenic effect in humans. [150]

Tributyltin (TBT) are organotin compounds that for 40 years TBT was used as a biocide in anti-fouling paint, commonly known as bottom paint. TBT has been shown to impact invertebrate and vertebrate development, disrupting the endocrine system, resulting in masculinization, lower survival rates, as well as many health problems in mammals.

Since being banned, the average human body burdens of DDT and PCB have been declining. [62] [151] [152] Since their ban in 1972, the PCB body burden in 2009 is one-hundredth of what it was in the early 1980s. On the other hand, monitoring programs of European breast milk samples have shown that PBDE levels are increasing. [62] [152] An analysis of PBDE content in breast milk samples from Europe, Canada, and the US shows that levels are 40 times higher for North American women than for Swedish women, and that levels in North America are doubling every two to six years. [153] [154]

It has been discussed that the long-term slow decline in average body temperature observed since the beginning of the industrial revolution [155] may result from disrupted thyroid hormone signalling. [156]

Because endocrine disruptors affect complex metabolic, reproductive, and neuroendocrine systems, they cannot be modeled in in vitro cell based assay. Consequently animal models are important for access the risk of endocrine disrupting chemicals. [157]

Mice Edit

There are multiple lines of genetically engineered mice used for lab studies, in this case the lines can be used as population-based genetic foundations. For instance, there is a population that is named Multi-parent and can be a Collaborative Cross (CC) or Diversity Outbred (DO). These mice while both from the same 8 founder strains, have distinct differences. [158] [159] [160]

The 8 founder strains, combine strains that are wild-derived (with high genetic diversity) and historically significant biomedical research bred strains. Each genetically differential line is important in EDCs response and also almost all biological processes and traits. [161]

The CC population consists of 83 inbred mouse strains that over many generations in labs came from the 8 founder strains. These inbred mice have recombinant genomes that are developed to ensure every strain is equally related, this eradicates population structure and can result in false positives with qualitative trait locus (QTL) mapping.

While DO mice have the identical alleles to the CC mice population. There are two major differences in these mice 1) every individual is unique allowing for hundreds of individuals to be applied in one mapping study. Making DO mice an extremely useful tool for determining genetic relationships. 2) The catch is that DO individuals cannot be reproduced.

Transgenic Edit

These rodents mainly mice have been bred by inserting other genes from another organism to make transgenic lines (thousands of lines) of rodents. The most recent tool used to do this is CRISPR/Cas9 which allows this process to be done more efficiently. [162]

Genes may be manipulated in a particular cell populations if done under the correct conditions. [163] For Endocrine disrupting chemical (EDC) research these rodents have become an important tool to the point where they can produce humanized mouse models. [164] [165] Additionally scientists use gene knockout lines of mice in order to study how certain mechanisms work when impacted by EDC’s. [164] [165] [166] [167] Transgenic rodents are an important tool for studies involving the mechanisms that are impacted by EDC but take a long time to produce and are expensive. Additionally, the genes aimed at for knockout are not always successfully targeted resulting in incomplete knockout of a gene or off-target expression.

Social Models Edit

Experiments (gene by environment) with these relatively new rodent models may, be able to discover if there are mechanisms that EDCs could impact in the social decline in autism spectrum disorder (ASD) and other behavioral disorders. [168] [169] This is because prairie and pine voles are socially monogamous making them a better model for human social behaviors and development in relation to EDCs. [170] [171] [172] [168] [173] Additionally the prairie vole genome has been sequenced making it feasible to do the experiments mentioned above. [168] [169] These voles can be compared to montane and meadow voles who are socially promiscuous and solitary, when looking at how different species have various forms of development and social brain structure. [172] [168] [173] Both monogamous and promiscuous mice species have been used in these types of experiments, for more information studies [174] can expand on this topic. [175] [176] [174] [177] More complex models that have systems that are as close as possible to humans are being looked at. Looking back at more common rodent models for instance the common ASD mouse are helpful but do not fully encompass what a model of the human social behaviors needs to. But these rodents will always just be models and this is important to keep in mind. [170] [171]

Zebrafish Edit

The endocrine systems between mammals and fish are similar, because of this Danio rerio are a popular lab choice. [178] The Danio rerio, or zebrafish work well as a model organism, part of which can be attributed to the fact that researchers are able to study them starting from the embryo, as the embryo is nearly transparent. [178] Additionally, zebrafish have DNA sex markers, this allows the biologists to individually assign sex to fish, this is particularly important when studying endocrine disruptors as the disruptors can affect how, among other things, the sex organs work, so if by chance there is sperm in the ovaries later on through the testing it can then be pinned to the chemical without the chance of it being a genetic abnormality since the sex was determined by the researcher. Besides zebrafish being readily available, and easy to study through their different life stages, they have hugely similar genes to humans - 70% of human genes have a zebrafish counterpart and even more fascinatingly 84% of disease genes in humans have a zebrafish counterpart. [178] Most importantly perhaps is the fact that the vast majority of endocrine disruptors end up in water ways, [178] and so it is important to know how these disruptors affect fish, which arguably have intrinsic value and just happen to be model organisms as well.

The zebrafish embryos are transparent, relatively small fish (larvae are less than a few millimeters in size). [179] This allows scientists to view the larvae (in vivo) without killing them to study how their organs develop in particular, neuro development and transport of presumed endocrine disrupting chemicals (EDC). Meaning how their development is impacted by certain chemicals. As a model, they have simple modes of endocrine disruption. [180] Along with homologous physiological, sensory, anatomical and signal-transduction mechanism similar to mammals. [181] Another helpful tool available to scientists is their recorded genome along with multiple transgenic lines accessible for breeding. Zebrafish and mammalian genomes when compared have prominent similarities with about 80% of human genes expressed in the fish. Additionally, this fish is also fairly inexpensive to breed and house in a lab partly due to their shorter life span and being able to house more of them, compared to mammalian models. [182] [183] [184] [179]

Research on endocrine disruptors is challenged by five complexities requiring special trial designs and sophisticated study protocols: [185]

  1. The dissociation of space means that, although disruptors may act by a common pathway via hormone receptors, their impact may also be mediated by effects at the levels of transport proteins, deiodinases, degradation of hormones or modified setpoints of feedback loops (i.e. allostatic load). [186]
  2. The dissociation of time may ensue from the fact that unwanted effects may be triggered in a small time window in the embryonal or fetal period, but consequences may ensue decades later or even in the generation of grandchildren. [187]
  3. The dissociation of substance results from additive, multiplicative or more complex interactions of disruptors in combination that yield fundamentally different effects from that of the respective substances alone. [185]
  4. The dissociation of dose implies that dose-effect relationships use to be nonlinear and sometimes even U-shaped, so that low or medium doses may have stronger effects than high doses. [186]
  5. The dissociation of sex reflects the fact that effects may be different depending on whether embryos or fetuses are female or male. [187][188]

United States Edit

The multitude of possible endocrine disruptors are technically regulated in the United States by many laws, including: the Toxic Substances Control Act, the Food Quality Protection Act, [189] the Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act, the Clean Water Act, the Safe Drinking Water Act, and the Clean Air Act.

The Congress of the United States has improved the evaluation and regulation process of drugs and other chemicals. The Food Quality Protection Act of 1996 and the Safe Drinking Water Act of 1996 simultaneously provided the first legislative direction requiring the EPA to address endocrine disruption through establishment of a program for screening and testing of chemical substances.

In 1998, the EPA announced the Endocrine Disruptor Screening Program by establishment of a framework for priority setting, screening and testing more than 85,000 chemicals in commerce. While the Food Quality Protection Act only required the EPA to screen pesticides for potential to produce effects similar to estrogens in humans, it also gave the EPA the authority to screen other types of chemicals and endocrine effects. [189] Based recommendations from an advisory panel, the agency expanded the screening program to include male hormones, the thyroid system, and effects on fish and other wildlife. [189] The basic concept behind the program is that prioritization will be based on existing information about chemical uses, production volume, structure-activity and toxicity. Screening is done by use of in vitro test systems (by examining, for instance, if an agent interacts with the estrogen receptor or the androgen receptor) and via the use of in animal models, such as development of tadpoles and uterine growth in prepubertal rodents. Full scale testing will examine effects not only in mammals (rats) but also in a number of other species (frogs, fish, birds and invertebrates). Since the theory involves the effects of these substances on a functioning system, animal testing is essential for scientific validity, but has been opposed by animal rights groups. Similarly, proof that these effects occur in humans would require human testing, and such testing also has opposition.

After failing to meet several deadlines to begin testing, the EPA finally announced that they were ready to begin the process of testing dozens of chemical entities that are suspected endocrine disruptors early in 2007, eleven years after the program was announced. When the final structure of the tests was announced there was objection to their design. Critics have charged that the entire process has been compromised by chemical company interference. [190] In 2005, the EPA appointed a panel of experts to conduct an open peer-review of the program and its orientation. Their results found that "the long-term goals and science questions in the EDC program are appropriate", [191] however this study was conducted over a year before the EPA announced the final structure of the screening program. The EPA is still finding it difficult to execute a credible and efficient endocrine testing program. [189]

As of 2016, the EPA had estrogen screening results for 1,800 chemicals. [189]

Europe Edit

In 2013, a number of pesticides containing endocrine disrupting chemicals were in draft EU criteria to be banned. On the 2nd May, US TTIP negotiators insisted the EU drop the criteria. They stated that a risk-based approach should be taken on regulation. Later the same day Catherine Day wrote to Karl Falkenberg asking for the criteria to be removed. [192]

The European Commission had been to set criteria by December 2013 identifying endocrine disrupting chemicals (EDCs) in thousands of products — including disinfectants, pesticides and toiletries — that have been linked to cancers, birth defects and development disorders in children. However, the body delayed the process, prompting Sweden to state that it would sue the commission in May 2014 — blaming chemical industry lobbying for the disruption. [193]

“This delay is due to the European chemical lobby, which put pressure again on different commissioners. Hormone disrupters are becoming a huge problem. In some places in Sweden we see double-sexed fish. We have scientific reports on how this affects fertility of young boys and girls, and other serious effects,” Swedish Environment Minister Lena Ek told the AFP, noting that Denmark had also demanded action. [193]

In November 2014, the Copenhagen-based Nordic Council of Ministers released its own independent report that estimated the impact of environmental EDCs on male reproductive health, and the resulting cost to public health systems. It concluded that EDCs likely cost health systems across the EU anywhere from 59 million to 1.18 billion Euros a year, noting that even this represented only "a fraction of the endocrine related diseases". [194]

There is evidence that once a pollutant is no longer in use, or once its use is heavily restricted, the human body burden of that pollutant declines. Through the efforts of several large-scale monitoring programs, [195] [196] the most prevalent pollutants in the human population are fairly well known. The first step in reducing the body burden of these pollutants is eliminating or phasing out their production.

The second step toward lowering human body burden is awareness of and potentially labeling foods that are likely to contain high amounts of pollutants. This strategy has worked in the past - pregnant and nursing women are cautioned against eating seafood that is known to accumulate high levels of mercury. Ideally, [ according to whom? ] a certification process should be in place to routinely test animal products for POP concentrations. This would help the consumer identify which foods have the highest levels of pollutants.

The most challenging aspect [ citation needed ] of this problem is discovering how to eliminate these compounds from the environment and where to focus remediation efforts. Even pollutants no longer in production persist in the environment, and bio-accumulate in the food chain. An understanding of how these chemicals, once in the environment, move through ecosystems, is essential to designing ways to isolate and remove them. Working backwards through the food chain may help to identify areas to prioritize for remediation efforts. This may be extremely challenging for contaminated fish and marine mammals that have a large habitat and who consume fish from many different areas throughout their lives.

Many persistent organic compounds, PCB, DDT and PBDE included, accumulate in river and marine sediments. Several processes are currently being used by the EPA to clean up heavily polluted areas, as outlined in their Green Remediation program. [197]

One of the most interesting ways is the utilization of naturally occurring microbes that degrade PCB congeners to remediate contaminated areas. [198]

There are many success stories of cleanup efforts of large heavily contaminated Superfund sites. A 10-acre (40,000 m 2 ) landfill in Austin, Texas contaminated with illegally dumped VOCs was restored in a year to a wetland and educational park. [199]

A US uranium enrichment site that was contaminated with uranium and PCBs was cleaned up with high tech equipment used to find the pollutants within the soil. [200] The soil and water at a polluted wetlands site were cleaned of VOCs, PCBs and lead, native plants were installed as biological filters, and a community program was implemented to ensure ongoing monitoring of pollutant concentrations in the area. [201] These case studies are encouraging due to the short amount of time needed to remediate the site and the high level of success achieved.

Studies suggest that bisphenol A, [202] certain PCBs, [203] and phthalate compounds [204] are preferentially eliminated from the human body through sweat.

Human exposure may cause some health effects, such as lower IQ and adult obesity. These effects may lead to lost productivity, disability, or premature death in some people. One source estimated that, within the European Union, this economic effect might have about twice the economic impact as the effects caused by mercury and lead contamination. [205]

The socio-economic burden of endocrine disrupting chemicals (EDC)-associated health effects for the European Union was estimated based on currently available literature and considering the uncertainties with respect to causality with EDCs and corresponding health-related costs to be in the range of €46 billion to €288 billion per year. [206]