Exposure to minuscule amounts of bisphenol-A can cause a multitude of health problems, including effects on the developing brain, heart, and ovaries, according to a paper published on Thursday that integrates data from several animal studies.
An article written by a group of 19 toxicologists has been published verbatim in eight toxicology journals in the last four months.
An “unethical attempt to foster the views of the chemical industry”<p>Their views disregard the huge body of evidence in the peer-reviewed scientific literature as developed by independent scientists working in the endocrine-disrupting chemical field, and supported by international medical and scientific societies, including the Endocrine Society, the world's largest professional medical and scientific association dedicated to endocrinology.</p><p>It is curious that these editorials have emerged just before the European Parliament's vote on their resolution on the European Chemicals Strategy for Sustainability <a href="https://www.europarl.europa.eu/doceo/document/B-9-2020-0222_EN.html" target="_blank">taking place today</a>. </p><p>This resolution is the EU Parliament`s input in the ongoing discussions for the European Chemicals Strategy for Sustainability promised for autumn 2020. It is expected that the results from the <a href="https://ec.europa.eu/info/policies/endocrine-disruptors_en" target="_blank">European Commission's Fitness Check</a> on endocrine disrupters will be included.</p><p>Another issue stands out about the editorials: Six of the eight journals are published by Elsevier Publishing Company and the journal editors are themselves among the 19 authors. </p><p>When I asked Elsevier about the ethics of publishing same article in multiple journals, they responded via email: "Please note that it is a quite a common practice for editors of several journals to agree to share information such as this. In principal Editors have the right to publish Editorials as opinion pieces or guidelines, even if controversial, by means of the same text/Editorial Note in several journals, with the aim to reach the widest possible audience." </p><p>In my many decades as a researcher publishing in peer-reviewed journals, I have seen this occur only once before and it was done by these same writers in 2013. As with this editorial, they published the same article in four of these same toxicology journals. </p><p>This editorial and its repeat publication are an unethical attempt to foster the views of the chemical industry at the expense of human health.</p><p>Toxicologists around the globe should be outraged that this band of scientists-as-lobbyists are undermining the field of toxicology—an independent, unbiased and legitimate field of science. Honest scientists must speak up now in support of maintaining ethical standards of publication in the field of toxicology.</p><p>I call on toxicologists everywhere to stand up for their field and follow Edmund Burke's guidance: "The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men (sic) to do nothing." </p>
Exposure to endocrine-disrupting chemicals in medicine and medical devices is grossly underestimated, and physicians have an ethical obligation to talk about these exposures with their patients, according to a new study.
Lead scientist Katie Hayden plans to publish recommendations for products people can use that don't have the harmful chemicals, which are called endocrine-disrupting compounds.
When it comes to our bodies, we are what we eat—or so the adage goes.
Editor's note: This article was originally published at Le Monde and is republished here with permission.
Helmut Greim, German scientist and corresponding author of the new editorial. (Credit: ARD.de/YouTube)
"Out-of-date and one-sided"<p>Scientific evidence on EDCs and their broad-spectrum harmfulness has been accumulating for almost 30 years. Yet the signatories of the April 2020 editorial, who call themselves "prominent experts and scientific leaders in the field," consider that synthetic EDCs are no more dangerous than "natural" EDCs found in "soy-based diets, green tea and sweet mustard."</p><p>Without any scientific reference to support their assertion, they claim that exposure to "synthetic" EDCs "has continuously declined over the past five decades while exposure to [natural] EDCs has increased…primarily in conjunction with an increase in vegetarian lifestyles."</p><p>The authors also contest the existence of effects caused by exposure to EDCs at low doses. This is, however, a characteristic of these substances: they hack into the body's circuitry at doses as small as those of natural hormones.</p><p>In conclusion, the authors suggest halting all research on the effects of EDCs on laboratory animals and to limit them to in vitro tests, that is on cultured cells, and not entire living organisms.</p><p>To substantiate their statements, the toxicologists refer to old studies. Many studies date from the early 2000s, before most of the research on EDCs was even conducted. There is no mention of the regulatory measures adopted by the EU since 2009. Authors also practice self-citation, building their arguments from their own publications, mostly similar editorials or letters sent to journals to challenge research unfavorable to EDCs. Finally, the references contain a significant number of articles written by consultants on behalf of industry.</p><p>The scientific content is "out-of-date and one-sided," said <a href="https://www.sciencemag.org/news/2019/10/now-retired-top-us-environmental-scientist-feels-free-speak-her-mind" target="_blank">Linda Birnbaum</a>, a toxicologist who worked as a government scientist in the U.S. for four decades, one of them as head of the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS).</p><p>When asked if the work of those authors counts in the EDC field, she answered: "Not to unbiased researchers."</p><p>The text is severely criticized by the Endocrine Society, the main society in the field comprised of 18,000 doctors and researchers. "The editorial disregards the large body of evidence linking endocrine-disrupting chemical exposure to public health harms," said Barbara Demeneix, Chair of the Society's Endocrine-Disrupting Chemicals Advisory Group.</p><p>An expert group convened by the Endocrine Society in 2015 to elaborate a <a href="https://academic.oup.com/edrv/article/36/6/E1/2354691" target="_blank">reference document</a> reviewed more than 1,500 studies and concluded that there was "robust scientific evidence from animal, human, mechanistic and epidemiological studies" to establish "strong links between EDC exposure and health impacts ranging from obesity, diabetes and hormone-sensitive cancers to adverse effects on neurodevelopment, reproductive health and the thyroid gland."</p><p>However, in an email to <em>Le Monde</em>, Helmut Greim argued that "due to the very low exposures und [sic] potencies of the so called synthetic EDCs there is no plausibility that they cause a problem. Since a statement of a single individual can always be questioned an editorial by renown [sic] and independent scientists…most convincing," he wrote. </p>
Tufts University biologist Ana Soto. They are "self-proclaimed experts with no expertise," she said of the authors of the new editorial. (Credit: Antoine Doyen/Tufts.edu)
Lacking expertise<p>At Tufts University, near Boston, biologist Ana Soto is exasperated by this constant questioning of the validity of the EDC issue which she, along with other pioneers, identified<a href="http://www.ourstolenfuture.com/consensus/wingspread1.htm" target="_blank"> as early as 1991.</a> "I'm tired of this," she said with a sigh.</p><p>Soto mobilized a researcher from her team for <em>Le Monde</em> who sifted through the actual scientific work of these 20 or so scientists on the subject of EDCs.</p><p>The researcher, Victoria Bouffard, analyzed their publications in the scientific literature. Her preliminary results show that the terms "endocrine," "estrogen," "androgen," "thyroid," or "bisphenol A" very rarely appear in their articles. And for many, only in commentaries, letters or editorials, not in research articles or reviews.</p><p>"To throw an editorial, you don't need a lot of work," said Ana Soto.</p><p>Frequently solicited in Brussels in recent years, Daniel Dietrich (University of Konstanz, Germany), for example, only counts 12 publications out of 45 containing these terms – "not enough to be an EDC expert," said Soto. In the <a href="https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/?term=%28Dekant%2C+Wolfgang%5BAuthor%5D%29+NOT+%28RIFM%29&filter=years.2017-2019&sort=date&size=200" target="_blank">last three years</a>, Wolfgang Dekant (University of Würzburg, Germany) had only 12 publications: three editorials, three <a href="https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0378427420301363?via%3Dihub" target="_blank">industry</a>-<a href="https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0273230019302636?via%3Dihub" target="_blank">sponsored</a> <a href="https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0378427419301948?via%3Dihub" target="_blank">studies</a>, and the other six are the April editorial published six times. Finnish nanotechnology specialist Kai Savolainen has none.</p><p>They are "self-proclaimed experts with no expertise," concluded Soto.</p><p>While the authentic EDC specialists publish in well-respected journals – from the specialist <em>Environmental Health Perspectives</em> to the famous <em>Lancet</em> – this small, all-male brigade attacks their work in minor toxicology journals, most of which they edit themselves.</p><p>"Frankly, I find it inexcusable that the same commentary can be published in  different journals – I think an author of the commentary is an editor of each journal in question," said Linda Birnbaum.</p>
Sign at European Parliament. (Credit: Stéphane Horel)
Conflicts of interest<p>What could possibly be the motives of scientists who have worked all their lives on the toxicity of chemicals to deny their very effects and beg the authorities not to provide more protection for the population?</p><p>Perhaps the beginning of the answer lies in their conflicts of interest. This point is of particular concern for Barabara Demeneix who, on behalf of the Endocrine Society, "would be interested in seeing more detailed information about the authors' disclosures to ensure that readers are aware of all relevant potential conflicts."</p><p>At the <a href="https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0887233320303209?via%3Dihub" target="_blank">bottom of the editorial</a>, the authors solemnly declare "that they have no known competing financial interests or personal relationships that could have appeared to influence the work reported in this paper." <em>Le Monde's </em>systematic research into their collaborations, over the last three years, with industries whose products are threatened by EDC regulations shows it is far from being the case.</p><p>Retired since 2002, Helmut Greim was a consultant for <a href="https://linkinghub.elsevier.com/retrieve/pii/S0273-2300(19)30084-4" target="_blank">Sumitomo</a> in 2019, as indicated in the declaration of interest of an article about a pesticide that he co-authored with employees of the Japanese chemical firm. The same year, he was on a <a href="https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S027323001930114X" target="_blank">panel</a> for the American Chemistry Council, the U.S. chemical industry's lobbying organization. Since 2001, he has been a <a href="http://www.ecetoc.org/about-ecetoc/scientific-committee/" target="_blank">member</a> of the scientific committee of Ecetoc, the European scientific think tank of the chemical industry.</p><p>Also of note, Greim was a member of the <a href="https://web.archive.org/web/20151215013732/http:/www.monsanto.com/iarc-roundup/pages/2015-glyphosate-expert-panel.aspx" target="_blank">expert panel</a> established in 2015 by Monsanto to defend its controversial herbicide glyphosate and was involved in a ghostwriting case. As <a href="https://huit.lemonde.fr/articles/214485/events" target="_blank">revealed by <em>Le Monde</em></a><u><em> </em></u>while exploring the "Monsanto Papers," he had signed a scientific article mostly written by the company's toxicologists. </p><p>Greim also became a kind of world celebrity in 2018, when the press dubbed him <a href="https://www.politico.eu/article/lead-scientist-in-monkey-tests-automakers-fully-aware-of-trials/" target="_blank">"Monkeygate Doctor."</a> He was an advisor to a German automobile manufacturers' association and gave the go-ahead for an experiment in which monkeys were exposed to diesel exhaust. Alongside this type of activity, he also held <a href="http://www.monsantoglobal.com/iarc-roundup/Documents/Greim-Helmut%20CV.pdf" target="_blank">important responsibilities</a> in various official European scientific committees for almost three decades.</p><p>But their editorial, said Greim, "is merely science based." "I hope that in your <em>Le Monde</em> article you will discuss science and not whether one or the other of the authors has worked with industry."</p><p>Has this text been commissioned? Does he have any comment on the fact that half of the authors – including himself – have not declared their conflicts of interest? Helmut Greim did not answer these questions.</p><p>Among the nine signatories with industry connections over the past three years, Alan Boobis is well known in the regulatory toxicology community. Recently retired from Imperial College London, he <a href="https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/10408444.2020.1727843" target="_blank">declared</a> three months ago that he was "a member of several scientific advisory boards," stating that "none of these collaborative activities is or was remunerated."</p><p>At the request of <em>Le Monde</em>, he provided the list. They include the <a href="https://www.canr.msu.edu/cris/about/partners" target="_blank">Centre for Research on Ingredient Safety</a> (CRIS, notably funded by Bayer, Hershey's and PepsiCo), the <a href="https://cosmeticseurope.eu/how-we-take-action/promoting-science-research/" target="_blank">Long Range Science Strategy</a> (LRSS) of Cosmetics Europe, the European lobbying organization of the cosmetics sector, and the medical device manufacturer <a href="https://www.owlstonemedical.com/about/scientific-advisory-board/" target="_blank">Owlstone Medical</a>.</p><p>Also on a pro bono basis, Mr. Boobis has been a <a href="https://ilsi.org/about/staff-leadership/" target="_blank">member</a> of the Board of Trustees of ILSI, the leading <a href="https://www.cambridge.org/core/journals/public-health-nutrition/article/pushing-partnerships-corporate-influence-on-research-and-policy-via-the-international-life-sciences-institute/C42EDA188F5E66983D80C8A44E90AB21/core-reader" target="_blank">scientific lobbying organization</a> for the pesticide, biotechnology and food industry, for many years. As none of these positions are compensated, "there was considered to be no conflict influencing the work of the paper and hence no declaration," explained Alan Boobis.</p><p>Sir Colin Berry, who co-authored the <a href="https://linkinghub.elsevier.com/retrieve/pii/S0273-2300(19)30084-4" target="_blank">Sumitomo</a> study mentioned above with Helmut Greim, himself <a href="https://www.sciencemediacentre.org/expert-reaction-to-study-looking-at-contaminants-in-us-tap-water-and-cancer-risk/" target="_blank">stated</a> on the website of the British Science Media Centre to be a consultant for <a href="https://www.sciencemediacentre.org/expert-reaction-to-study-looking-at-contaminants-in-us-tap-water-and-cancer-risk/" target="_blank">BASF</a>, <a href="https://www.sciencemediacentre.org/expert-reaction-to-us-jury-ruling-that-monsanto-product-linked-to-mans-cancer/" target="_blank">Bayer</a>, <a href="https://www.sciencemediacentre.org/expert-reaction-to-us-jury-ruling-that-monsanto-product-linked-to-mans-cancer/" target="_blank">DuPont</a>, <a href="https://www.sciencemediacentre.org/expert-reaction-to-us-jury-ruling-that-monsanto-product-linked-to-mans-cancer/" target="_blank">Monsanto</a> and "<a href="https://www.sciencemediacentre.org/expert-reaction-to-study-looking-at-contaminants-in-us-tap-water-and-cancer-risk/" target="_blank">a number of pharmaceutical companies</a>," and an advisor to the European Risk Forum.</p><p>Funded by companies such as BASF, Bayer and Chevron, this Brussels think tank aims to extract the precautionary principle <a href="https://journals.plos.org/plosmedicine/article?id=10.1371/journal.pmed.1000202" target="_blank">from official European texts</a> and <a href="https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/17579961.2018.1455023?journalCode=rlit20" target="_blank">concerns</a>. Also retired for many years, Mr. Berry <a href="https://www.sciencemediacentre.org/expert-reaction-to-study-looking-at-contaminants-in-us-tap-water-and-cancer-risk/" target="_blank">said</a> he chairs Syngenta's "ethics committee," which usually pays him through "<a href="https://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0151841" target="_blank">hourly fees</a>."</p><p><a href="https://web.archive.org/web/20130808183044/http:/flameretardants.americanchemistry.com/Science-Health/About-the-Science-Advisory-Council" target="_blank">Since 2013 at least</a>, Canadian Sam Kacew (University of Ottawa) has been a permanent member of the Scientific Advisory Board of the North American Flame Retardant Alliance (Nafra), a sub-section of the American Chemistry Council, which advocates for those chemicals that are toxic to the brain and the reproductive system. For this mission, he stated that he has received honoraria in the <a href="https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S2468202020300371" target="_blank">last</a> <a href="https://science.sciencemag.org/content/365/6457/992/tab-pdf" target="_blank">three</a> <a href="https://pubs.acs.org/doi/10.1021/acs.est.8b05091" target="_blank">years</a>. Mr. Berry and Mr. Kacew did not answer questions from <em>Le Monde.</em></p><p>Christopher Borgert's relationship with industry is more direct. A <a href="http://www.apt-pharmatox.com/aboutus.htm" target="_blank">self-employed consultant</a>, his clients since 2018 have included <a href="https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0045653518311561?via%3Dihub" target="_blank">Monsanto</a>, <a href="https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0045653518311561?via%3Dihub" target="_blank">CropLife America</a> (pesticides), the <a href="https://linkinghub.elsevier.com/retrieve/pii/S0273-2300(18)30249-6" target="_blank">American Chemistry Council</a>, the <a href="https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007%2Fs00204-018-2186-z" target="_blank">Endocrine Policy Forum</a> (the alliance of the last two), and an industry consortium that defends <a href="https://linkinghub.elsevier.com/retrieve/pii/S0273-2300(18)30249-6" target="_blank">benzene</a>.</p><p>While <em>Le Monde</em> has investigated only the last three years, some of these scientists have a very longstanding relationship with industry. Aged 89, Gio Batta Gori, for example, is part of the furnishings of this small world. A <a href="https://www.sourcewatch.org/index.php/Gio_Batta_Gori" target="_blank">former tobacco industry consultant</a>, he was for many years <a href="https://www.isrtp.org/" target="_blank">editor</a> of Regulatory Toxicology and Pharmacology, a journal remotely controlled by industry, publishing articles complaisant to toxic products.</p><p>Born in 1938, Hans Marquardt was a member of the <a href="http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1470431/pdf/0960020.pdf" target="_blank">scientific advisory board</a> of Philip Morris' "external research programme" in the early 2000s, as evidenced by <a href="https://www.ehn.org/science-and-conflicts-of-interest-ties-to-industry-revealed-2646169210.html" target="_self">contracts and correspondence</a> in the "Cigarette Papers," the secret archives of the tobacco companies.</p><p>In total, at least 15 of these 19 scientists have had ties with the chemical, pesticide, fossil fuel or tobacco industries over the course of their careers.</p>
Outside of the Berlaymont building, headquarters of the EU Commission in Brussels (Credit: Stéphane Horel)
Getting the ear of EU decision-makers<p>Some of them are <a href="https://www.ehn.org/special-report-scientists-critical-of-eu-chemical-policy-have-industry-ties-2646169170.html" target="_self">not at their first "hit."</a> As early as June 2013, seven of them had already signed a <a href="https://www.altex.org/index.php/altex/article/view/374" target="_blank">shorter editorial</a>, then published in 14 journals. The initiative came from the Germans Helmut Greim, Wolfgang Dekant and Daniel Dietrich.</p><p>Coupled with an intervention directed at the highest scientific authorities of the Commission, the text had played a major role in <a href="https://www.lemonde.fr/planete/article/2016/05/20/perturbateurs-endocriniens-l-histoire-secrete-d-un-scandale_4922907_3244.html" target="_blank">derailing</a> the decision-making process on the EDC regulation, which was then in the process of being elaborated. Solicited at the time by the EU, toxicologist Andreas Kortenkamp (Brunel University, London) does not hide his feeling of "déjà vu."</p><p>Even if their objective seems "less clear" to him, today, as in the past, these authors have the "possibility to create an impact on politicians who are not intimately familiar with the subject matter," he said to <em>Le Monde</em>. To him, this initiative amounts to "pseudo-scientific advice leading to bad political decisions."</p><p>Despite their incompetence on the subject and their known connections with industries threatened by the progress of chemicals regulation worldwide, the hard core of these scientists manages to get the attention of EU decision-makers. In May 2016, they were even received by the Commissioner for Health, Vytenis Andriukaitis, at a <a href="https://www.prnewswire.co.uk/news-releases/well-known-scientists-ready-to-stem-the-onslaught-of-pseudoscience-in-the-eu-578980091.html" target="_blank">meeting</a> more akin to lobbying than scientific advice.</p><p>Over the course of these meetings, editorials and articles, this small group has managed to create the illusion, in Brussels and elsewhere, of a deep scientific disagreement on the issue of the EDCs.</p><p>The "controversy" is artificially inflated by only a handful of individuals with little real experience in the science of endocrine disruption. Since 2013, eight members of this core group have published at least six editorials in the toxicology journals they edit. All of them minimize the problem of EDCs, or their own conflicts of interest, which are never declared. Most of them are relayed, or even openly <a href="http://www.riskforum.eu/uploads/2/5/7/1/25710097/erf_insights_no_8_-_appeal_for_integrity_of_science.pdf" target="_blank">supported, by lobby groups</a>.</p><p>In 2016 alone, they attacked the "<a href="https://spiral.imperial.ac.uk/handle/10044/1/38583" target="_blank">pseudo</a>-<a href="https://spiral.imperial.ac.uk/handle/10044/1/38583" target="_blank">science</a>" of EDC research twice. "Free societies would be hard pressed to tolerate regulations that cause massive economic misallocations and pervasive public anxieties," lambasted another <a href="https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0273230016302562?via%3Dihub" target="_blank">editorial</a>. Daniel Dietrich, finally, called EDCs an "urban legend" in an <a href="https://linkinghub.elsevier.com/retrieve/pii/S0378-4274(13)01365-9" target="_blank">article</a> calling on Sigmund Freud to address their impact on male genitalia.</p><p>Jan Hengstler (Technical University of Dortmund, Germany), a liver specialist, has for his part no conflict of interest. A signatory to four of these texts, he <a href="https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007%2Fs00204-019-02482-x" target="_blank">claimed authorship</a> of a <a href="https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s00204-019-02481-y" target="_blank">parody note</a> on the subject of EDCs in July 2019.</p><p>Signed "I. M. Portant and R. E. Sults" (for "important" and "results") of the "Awkward Medical School," the article mocked 20 years of research on the low-dose effects of EDCs. Reporting the "below zero" effects of an imaginary endocrine disruptor called "hypochondriazole", the real authors recommended "an immediate ban on all types of chemical entities."</p><p>And they ended with these words: "The authors declare that they have conflicts but no interests."</p><p>A humor for specialists, which is precisely not to the taste of the specialists.</p><p>"Low-dose effects are real," said Linda Birnbaum. "Much of the supposedly satirical commentary just shows their level of ignorance."</p><p>The April 2020 editorial does no better, according to Barbara Demeneix, who said it "does not reflect the well-established scientific evidence justifying the urgent need to reduce exposure to EDCs. Delaying science-based regulatory controls will affect the health of current and future generations and ecosystems globally." </p>
The COVID-19 crisis has revealed the harmful consequences of leaders making critical decisions based on insufficient data, which end up hurting the most vulnerable communities.
What we don’t know could kill us<p>The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) routinely makes decisions in the dark. Its chemical regulation arm approves chemicals, often toxic to humans, to market without adequate data on safety.</p> <p>The EPA often assumes lack of data is equivalent to safe. Only if there is a massive tragedy linked to a chemical, such as the effects of lead on brain damage in children, do regulators consider health. </p> <p>Just like doctors, businesses, and government leaders today are calling for more COVID-19 testing before opening up the country, environmental health scientists routinely call for more chemical safety testing before chemicals are put on the market.</p> <p>Currently, the EPA is conducting risk evaluations for a number of <a href="https://www.epa.gov/assessing-and-managing-chemicals-under-tsca/draft-scope-documents-high-priority-chemicals-undergoing" target="_blank">chemicals</a> that have been in use for decades to decide if they should be withdrawn. Five of the chemicals in question are linked to breast cancer. </p> <p>At the same time, EPA is considering approval of six new PFAS chemicals. PFAS are a class of "non-stick" chemicals widely used in consumer products that have been linked with cancer, have contaminated our drinking water, and are found in the blood of virtually every American. </p> <p>Last year the EPA approved three new PFAS, despite incomplete test results, failed test protocols, and enormous data gaps on the health effects, as we detailed in our <a href="https://www.regulations.gov/document?D=EPA-HQ-OPPT-2019-0075-0010" target="_blank">comment</a> to EPA. </p> <p>As with COVID-19, what we don't know could literally kill us.</p>
Medical and environmental racism<p>What we do know is that communities of color are being <a href="https://www.vox.com/coronavirus-covid19/2020/4/18/21226225/coronavirus-black-cdc-infection" target="_blank">hit harder</a> by COVID-19. <a href="https://www.thelancet.com/journals/lancet/article/PIIS0140-6736(20)30792-3/fulltext" target="_blank">Medical racism</a>, poor access to good health care, and chronic exposures among essential service workers are important contributing factors.</p> <p>However, a lack of systematic data collection and reporting of racial data is preventing these communities from receiving the necessary level of care and resources. </p> <p>These disparities are common in environmental justice work, where communities of color experience higher levels of air pollution. </p> <p>Now there is evidence that <a href="https://undark.org/2020/04/16/air-pollution-covid-19/" target="_blank">air pollution</a> increases vulnerability to COVID-19.</p>
A renewed focus on prevention<p>Inadequate chemical safety regulations, along with a stream of environmental rollbacks under this administration, will have lasting impacts long after this pandemic is over.</p><p>To protect ourselves from future pandemics, safeguarding our environment, reducing hazardous exposures, and building a stronger evidence-based public health system are essential.</p><p>But, in order to do that, we have to correct 50 years of <a href="https://www.nytimes.com/2020/04/09/opinion/sunday/coronavirus-public-health-system-us.html" target="_blank">dwindling investment</a>s in public health.</p><p>In 2019, just 4 percent of the National Institutes of Health <a href="https://report.nih.gov/categorical_spending.aspx" target="_blank">budget</a> went toward prevention. And yet, as we've seen with COVID-19, prevention is powerful; states that issued stay at home orders earlier rather than later undoubtedly saved countless more lives.</p><p>It is now clearer than ever that as a society, we need a stronger public health infrastructure, one that focuses on prevention and relies on sound science to make decisions.</p>
What affects how likely you are to die from the novel coronavirus?
A global public health threat<p>A huge body of research into a family of chemicals that alter hormone action, called endocrine-disrupting chemicals, has increasingly established them as significant contributors to the risk of these very diseases: diabetes, obesity, heart disease, high blood pressure, reduced immunity, and more.</p> <p>There is always uncertainty in science, but the evidence has become strong enough that the Endocrine Society, the world's largest professional association of medical and research endocrinologists, considers reducing endocrine-disrupting chemicals' impacts to be one of their highest public health goals. Endocrinologists are the go-to health professionals for these diseases, both for figuring how to treat them and understanding how they cause effects. </p> <p>In 2012, the World Health Organization and the United Nations Environment Program released a report concluding that endocrine-disrupting chemicals are a global public health threat. </p> <p>The science has only grown stronger since then.</p> <p>Thousands of scientific papers have been published in the last 20 years linking endocrine-disrupting chemical exposure to the very comorbidities that increase the risk of dying from COVID-19. </p> <p>Some of the chemicals highlighted in this research are bisphenols like BPA, phthalates (plasticizers), perfluorinated (forever) chemicals, flame retardants, PCBs and a variety of new and old pesticides. </p> <p>One of the most disturbing studies found that vaccines don't work as well in children who had high levels of perfluorinated chemicals, PFOS and PFOA, in them as infants </p> <p>In 2020 each of us carries a collection of these chemicals in our bodies, including in our blood, tissues and organs. </p> <p>There is much more in us now than there was even 30 years ago. No one is uncontaminated, including unborn babies. </p> <p>Given what the research tells us, it's not surprising that with higher levels of endocrine-disrupting chemical exposure, the endocrine-related adverse health effects noted above have surged as public health threats. </p> <p>Nor is it surprising that the effects are being seen in younger and younger adults, and now even in teenagers.</p>
Hitting the “trifecta” of health, money, and fewer deaths<p>What will that take to weather the next pandemic, and the next?</p><p>First, regulatory agencies like the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and the Environmental Protection Agency need to use modern science to establish what is safe and what is not. Their approaches today do not reflect modern endocrinological science. They are mired in science from a previous century. </p><p>Second, we need the next generation of materials used in consumer products to be inherently safer than what we have today, because many of those products contain, and emit, endocrine-disrupting chemicals. </p><p>The good news is that endocrine-disrupting chemical science has advanced so substantially over these past two decades that chemists can use it to design safer materials. </p><p>And they can make money in the process, because, increasingly, consumers want to be confident that what they are bringing into their homes and their bodies is safe.</p><p>This is a clear path forward. Chemical inventors and chemical companies make money. People are healthier. Fewer people die in the next pandemic. Sounds like we can hit the trifecta.</p>
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