The Federal Environmental Protection Agency is back on the endocrine disruption (ED) bandwagon and it's important we understand the history of this issue in order to make sure more "new" science on ED's isn't being made up as was the "old" science on ED's. Truth is the sublime convergence of history and reality - unless you're the EPA - then truth is meaningless. We need to get that.
In chapter one of Rachel Carson's book Silent Spring she talks about some community where "a strange blight" crept over the area and everything began to change. Some evil spell had settled on the community".
Then she claims there were all sorts of maladies sickening and even killing the sheep, chickens, cattle, unexplained deaths among children and adults who would suddenly sicken and die....and the birds disappeared....and the people had done it to themselves. There was only one problem with this story. That town didn't exist! She even says it doesn't exist! Then goes on to claim some of these things are happening in a lot of communities - somewhere. Yet she conveniently fails to give a name even one of those cities or towns. Why? Because these communities didn't exist!
Reality and green speculatory scare mongering rarely have anything in common, and time is the great leveler of truth. As the cancer scare was running out of steam, environmentalists needed a new voodoo scare. Endocrine disruption was just the thing. The National Academy of Science more accurately refers to them as hormonally active agents" (HAAs), a term that's bound to generate anxiety.
A 1996 book called Our Stolen Future: Are We Threatening Our Fertility, Intelligence, and Survival?--A Scientific Detective Story, caught the public's attention, especially when they called these chemical "environmental estrogens".........[that] disrupted normal hormonal processes, even at low exposure levels generally accepted as safe." According to the book mankind's future was in serious jeopardy because ED' s were going to impact our fertility, intelligence, cause attention deficit disorder and even jeopardize our survival.
According to Geoffrey C. Kabat in his book Getting Risk Right, "hormones are chemical messengers secreted by ductless glands and travel through the blood stream to affect distant organs. Hormones play a role in orchestrating the body's growth, maintaining physiologic balance, and sexual functioning and development." "Once secreted a hormone must be transported via the blood stream to the target organ by a carrier protein. Once ether it binds to a receptor and the hormone-reception unit binds to a specific region of a cell's DNA to activate particular genes."
As Michael Fumento noted in his paper " Hormonally Challenged": "Virtually any real or possible human or animal health problem may be blamed on these chemicals, including cancer, birth defects, falling sperm counts, lesbian seagulls (giving rise to the term "gender benders" for HAAs), and alligators with shrunken members", impacting all life like some medieval witch's spell in a Brothers Grimm fairy tale instead of science.
In comes Steven F. Arnold of the Tulane University Center for Bioenvironmental Research who along with his gang published a study in June of 1996 "claiming that combinations of pesticides and PCBs were up to 1,000 times more potent as endocrine disruptors than the individual chemicals alone."
Carol Browner - head of EPA at the time - declared: "The new study is the strongest evidence to date that combinations of estrogenic chemicals may be potent enough to significantly increase the risk of breast cancer, prostate cancer, birth defects and other major health concerns." She went on to say: "I was astounded by the findings. Dr. Lynn Goldman, EPA pesticide chief, claimed "I just can't remember a time where I've seen data so persuasive … The results are very clean looking."
But time - the great leveler of truth - once again came into play. According the journal Science, Arnold was found to have "committed scientific misconduct by intentionally falsifying the research results published in the journal Science and by providing falsified and fabricated materials to investigating officials." It was also found "there is no original data or other corroborating evidence to support the research results and conclusions reported in the Science paper as a whole."
Steve Milloy noted: "by August 1997, Arnold was forced to retract his study from publication. His retraction stated, "We … have not been able to reproduce the results we reported." He later added, "I can't really explain the original findings."'
Six months after the Food Quality Protection Act was enacted (which required the EPA to identify chemicals which were HAA's) it was reported there wasn't a lab anywhere in the world that could replicate the Tulane study, and it was then formally withdrawn. Now we know why — he cheated. The penalty imposed on Arnold was a five-year ban from federal grants. Although a lifetime ban and perhaps even criminal prosecution would have been more appropriate — after all, he was found guilty of "intentionally falsifying" taxpayer-funded research".
He wasn't alone by the way, there's the hermaphrodite frog study and the small phallus alligator study, but space makes it impossible to discuss them all.
Yet the endocrine disruption component of the FQPA remains requiring the EPA to identify chemicals which are considered HAA's. In 2001 they were spending 10 million dollars a year attempting to meet that requirement. But they've had trouble declaring chemicals as HAA’s. Why?
Well there's that time as the great leveler of truth problem.
I've followed this issue from the beginning and I knew the problem they were having was - and still is - separating the ED potential of synthetic chemicals versus those which are naturally occurring. And that's the rub.
In his book The Really Inconvenient Truths Iain Murray states:
"The entire theory that industrialization is causing severe endocrine disruption falls completely apart when exposures to naturally occurring endocrine modulators are taken into account. Plants naturally produce endocrine modulators called "phytoestrogens" to which human being are expose at levels that are thousands and sometimes millions of time higher than those of synthetic chemicals. Humans consume these chemicals every day without adverse effects some even contend these chemicals promote good health."He goes on to say:
"Laboratory experiments have shown that there are so-called "endocrine disruptors" present in forty-three different foods common in the human diet, including corn, garlic, pineapple, potatoes, and wheat. Most amusingly, soybean, that product so beloved by liberal environmentalists, is a particularly potent source of phytoestrogens"....."it appears that on average human beings consume just over 100 micrograms of estrogen equivalents a day from natural sources. Compare that to the amount of industrial chemical amount of 2.5 micrograms."He also notes:
"As it turns out phytoestrogens are actually much more potent than the chemicals that act like estrogens. Our friend DDT, for instance, has a relative potency to natural estrogen of 0.000001, meaning it takes one million molecules to have the same impact of one molecule of real estrogen."And what is the most potent ED the public is exposed to? Oral contraceptives! And that number is massive. Oral contraceptives are the most potent ED in the nation's waterways today. But EPA only screen and test pesticide chemicals, commercial chemicals and environmental contaminants because they claim pharmaceutical regulation is a Food and Drug Administration concern. That's an easy way for the EPA to avoid facing the fact if they "compared contraceptives and phytoestrogens these two sources would dwarf the impact of pesticides."
Solution? Repeal or seriously revise the Food Quality Protection Act, which has nothing to do with food, protection or quality. But it has had a great deal to do with creating the national bed bug plague. And that really is a Medieval curse.