Endocrine Disruptors


Fate and Transport in the Environment

Methods for Monitoring in the Environment

Methods for Measuring Human Exposure

Exposure Pathway

Strategies for Preventing or Controlling Exposure

PCBs - Harmful Effects

PCBs - Dose Response

Sites of Toxicity

Mechanisms of Toxicity



Risk Assessment

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Strategies For Preventing or Controlling Exposure

The following is a brief outline of legislation and activities surrounding the process of understanding the impact of endocrine disruptors in the environment. As is shown, the serious study of EDCs is barely a decade old. The progress highlights the current lack of knowledge about the nature of EDCs and the level of exposure required to effect human health. According to the Executive Summary of Endocrine Active Substances written by Junshi Miyamota and Joanna Burger one of the main questions facing scientists and policy makers is when is there enough scientific understanding to proceed with actions.

1938 – Federal Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act (1938) and amended (1958) (FFDCA) regulates the use of pesticides as food additives.

1962 – Rachel Carson published Silent Spring that hypothesized about the impact of endocrine disrupters in the environment and their impact on human health.

1972 - Clean Water Act (CWA) regulates toxic water pollutants.

1974 - Safe Drinking Water Act (SDWA) sets enforceable maximum contaminant levels for certain substances in drinking water such as pesticides, non-pesticide organics, and inorganic chemicals that are suspected endocrine disruptors.

1986-present – The Toxics Release Inventory was established under the Emergency Planning and Community Right-to-Know Act of 1986 (EPCRA) and modified by the Pollution Prevention Act of 1990. Through ongoing expansion of the Toxics Release Inventory, EPA is providing the public with more information and encouraging dialogue between citizens and industry on reducing and preventing chemical releases into the environment. Other informational efforts include the development of practical guides for consumers who wish to reduce their exposure to pesticides in their homes, schools, and other settings.

1993 – Theo Colborn et al identified that large amounts in EDCs have been released in the environment since WWII and hypothesized prenatal and postnatal exposures to EDCs in wildlife and humans resulted in irreversible damage.

1995 - The NSTC Committee on Environment and Natural Resources (CENR) identified endocrine disruptors as an initiative.

1996 – EPA hosts two meeting to identify research needs related to risk assessments to endocrine disrupting chemicals (EDCs).

1996-1997 – U.S. Congress added amendments to the Food Quality Protection Act (FQPA) and the Safe Drinking Water Act (SDWA) that mandated testing of food-use pesticides and drinking water contaminants for hormonal activity.

1996 - The Endocrine Disruptor Screening and Testing Advisory Committee (EDSTAC), a federal advisory committee formed to make recommendations on how to develop the screening and testing program called for by Congress.

1997 – EPA implemented the Worker Protection Standard which requires appropriate protective equipment and other measures to reduce worker exposure to pesticides in agriculture.

1999 - The EPA began a screening and testing program to identify how some 87,000 chemicals now in commercial use affect the endocrine system. The CDC and the NIH launched a study of blood and urine samples to determine to what extent Americans have been exposed to about 50 environmental estrogens.

In the United States, the EPA has already banned the use of a number of environmentally persistent chemicals that have raised concerns about possible hormonal effects (PCBs, and such organochlorine pesticides as DDT, chlordane, aldrin/dieldrin, endrin, kepone, toxaphene, and 2,4,5-T) and is working with the international community to limit production and use of these chemicals worldwide. The Agency is also revising its testing guidelines for revaluating the effects of pesticides and toxic substances on reproduction and the developing fetus, which will enable EPA scientists to more readily identify chemicals with hormone-disrupting effects. Considerable scientific uncertainty remains as to which chemicals may be involved, patterns of exposure, mechanisms of action in humans and wildlife, and the best means for testing to predict or screen for these effects. The EPA continues to invest significant resources to resolve these uncertainties.

There has been put forth some recommendations for the general public to protect themselves and their families from reducing their potential exposures to endocrine disruptors. These suggestions include:

  • Educate yourself about endocrine disruptors, and educate your family and friends.
  • Buy organic food whenever possible.
  • Avoid using pesticides in your home or yard, or on your pet -- use baits or traps instead, keeping your home especially clean to prevent ant or roach infestations.
  • Find out if pesticides are used in your child's school or day care center and campaign for non-toxic alternatives.
  • Avoid fatty foods such as cheese and meat whenever possible.
  • If you eat fish from lakes, rivers, or bays, check with your state to see if they are contaminated.
  • Avoid heating food in plastic containers, or storing fatty foods in plastic containers or plastic wrap.
  • Do not give young children soft plastic teethers or toys.
  • Support efforts to get strong government regulation of and increased research on endocrine disrupting chemicals.
  • Rinse fruits and vegetables thoroughly with water, scrub them with a brush, and peel when appropriate. Cooking and baking will reduce residues of some pesticides even further.
  • Individuals should wash their hands after applying any pesticide and before handling food. It is also important to follow other precautions on product labels carefully, for example, to wear gloves when directed to do so on the label.
  • Store pesticides and other household chemicals out of the reach of children.