We're Not in the Clear Yet; Endocrine-Threatening Chemicals Still Abound
A recent editorial in The Washington Times highlights the retraction of a research paper published in Science ("The disaster that wasn't," Aug. 22).
Tulane University researchers withdrew the paper when their original results, showing greatly increased estrogen binding for combined chemical exposure, could not be duplicated.
The editorial goes on to imply that the retraction eliminates the scientific basis for regulatory concern over endocrine-disrupting chemicals.
But scientific and regulatory realities are not that simple. The retraction clearly invalidates general use of the Tulane researchers' yeast-estrogen test system for routine examination of synergistic effects of chemicals. However, it does not overturn the substantial scientific literature on either endocrine disruptors or synergistic effects.
Scientific literature clearly and repeatedly documents endocrine effects in humans, laboratory animals and wildlife. The strongest evidence has been generated for a few pesticides and industrial chemicals with well-known public health and environmental problems (e.g., DDT, PCBs, dioxin).
A key scientific question is whether endocrine disruption is restricted to areas heavily contaminated by a few problematic chemicals or is a broader-based environmental and public health concern. To address scientific uncertainties, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has commissioned a National Academy of Sciences review of the literature and substantially increased its commitment to endocrine-disruptor research. …