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Members of Congress Push EPA To Act on Endocrine Disruptors

(Beyond Pesticides, September 24, 2007) Seven representatives wrote to the EPA last Thursday, urging the government agency to act promptly to identify and screen products for dangerous endocrine-disrupting chemicals. The letter asks EPA Administrator Stephen Johnson to provide definite deadlines in the testing and control of endocrine disruptors, which are substances that interfere with the normal functioning of the endocrine system, responsible for hormonal and developmental processes. EPA’s regulation of these substances that mimic or alter natural hormonal processes has been slow and lacks direction to meet set goals promptly, according to the U.S. Representatives. “To date, EPA’s efforts in this area have been characterized by missed deadlines, prolonged delays, and inadequate incorporation of public input,” according to the letter from the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, chaired by Rep. Henry Waxman (D-California). Ranking Minority Member on the Committee Tom Davis (R-Virginia); Representatives Elijah Cummings (D-Maryland), Chris Van Hollen (D-Maryland), Wayne Gilchrest (R-Maryland), and Jim Moran (D-Virginia); and Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-D.C.) also signed the letter to EPA.

Advocates say that EPA’s lack of urgency on endocrine disruptors leaves the American population and future generations at risk for adverse health effects from exposure to these substances through food and drinking water. Dioxins, PCBs, and DDT are notable chemicals known to be endocrine disruptors, but “[m]any other chemicals, particularly those used in pesticides and plastics, are suspected endocrine disruptors based on limited animal studies,” according to the Committee’s letter.

The 1996 Food Quality Protection Act (FQPA) set a 1999 deadline for EPA to develop a battery of assays with which pesticide manufacturers will be required to screen their products as possible endocrine disruptors, similar to tests required to determine whether chemicals cause cancer, birth defects, genetic mutations, or other problems. The manufacturers’ rapid-result tests are the first part of a two-tier testing system, after which chemicals flagged by the “Tier 1” tests will then undergo more intensive “Tier 2” tests to confirm that they are endocrine disruptors, determine how they interfere with the endocrine system, and identify the dose levels that may trigger such effects. Yet the Representatives say that EPA has not completed a single step of this multi-stage process to date.

More than 10 years after being directed to do so by Congress, the EPA announced this June that it will test 73 pesticides for their potential to damage the endocrine system and disrupt the normal functioning of hormones in the body. “This initial list of 73 chemicals is only a small fraction of the universe of 1,700 chemicals that the agency has identified for screening under the FQPA mandate, and a minute percentage of the 75,000 chemicals currently listed on the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) Chemical Substance Inventory. EPA apparently has no internal deadline for identifying subsequent sets of chemicals for testing, and no plan whatsoever for ensuring that all chemicals of potential concern will be tested,” according to the Committee’s September letter. The congress members gave EPA twenty working days to respond to the letter, which includes questions as to when certain steps will be completed. Source: OMB Watch



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