A group of scientists has written a letter to the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP), World Health Organization (WHO), Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, and Strategic Approach to International Chemicals Management, urging the agencies to take “swift action to prevent harm from a wide variety of synthetic chemicals in consumer products and pesticides that play a role in increased incidences of reproductive diseases, cancer, obesity, and type-2 diabetes worldwide.” The scientists include authors of a recent WHO/ UNEP report that underlines the “urgent need for global action to address the dangers of hormone or endocrine disrupting chemicals (EDCs),” according to an Endocrine Society news release. The scientists’ action is part of a growing international effort to identify and control the chemicals that allegedly affect endocrine systems in humans and wildlife; more than 100 countries are reportedly engaged in a process to develop a global plan for the safe management of chemicals.

The scientists recommend several key principles to guide regulatory efforts in this area, including (i) a clear definition of EDCs—“endocrine disrupting chemicals are chemicals, or chemical mixtures, that interfere with normal hormone action”; (ii) vulnerability of living organisms—“hormones and their signaling pathways are critical for normal functioning in all vertebrates and invertebrates”; (iii) EDC effects occur at low doses—“many EDC effects occur at low doses even when high dose effects are not apparent”; (iv) EDCs can affect future generations, and timing of exposure is key—“the most sensitive period is during periods of development, from the fetal and post-natal periods, which can extend into infancy and childhood for some tissues”; (v) exposure to EDC mixtures may be different than exposure to single substances—“humans and animals are exposed to complex mixtures of hundreds of EDCs”; and (vi) the Precautionary Principle is key—“decision-making should err on the side of precaution.” See The Endocrine Society News Release, April 23, 2013.